Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez 'very delicate' as he is hit by severe respiratory infection

 

President Hugo Chavez is breathing with greater difficulty as a new and severe respiratory infection has taken hold, Venezuela's government said, describing the cancer-stricken president's condition as “very delicate.”

A brief statement read on national television by Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas late yesterday carried the sobering news about the charismatic 58-year-old socialist leader's deteriorating health.

Villegas said Chavez is suffering from "a new, severe infection." The state news agency identified it as respiratory.

Chavez, 58, has been undergoing "chemotherapy of strong impact," Villegas added without providing further details.

Chavez has neither been seen nor heard from, except for "proof-of-life" photos released in mid-February, since submitting to a fourth round of surgery in Cuba on 11 December for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area. It was first diagnosed in June 2011.

The government says he returned home on 18 February and has been confined to Caracas' military hospital since.

Villegas said Chavez was "standing by Christ and life conscious of the difficulties he faces."

He also took the opportunity to lash out at "the corrupt Venezuelan right" for what he called a psychological war seeking "scenarios of violence as a pretext for foreign intervention."

He called on Chavez's supporters, who include thousands of well-armed militiamen, to be "on a war footing."

Upon Chavez's death, the opposition would contest the government's candidate in a snap election that it argues should have been called after Chavez was unable to be sworn in on 10 January as the constitution stipulates.

Indeed, the campaigning has already begun, although undeclared, with Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who Chavez has said should succeed him, frequently commandeering all broadcast channels Chavez-style to tout the "revolution" and vilify the opposition.

Chavez has run Venezuela for more than 14 years as a virtual one-man show, gradually placing all state institutions under his personal control. But the former army paratroop officer who rose to fame with a failed 1992 coup, never groomed a successor with his force of personality.

Chavez was last re-elected on 7 October, and his challenger, youthful Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, is expected to again be the opposition's candidate.

On state TV last night, opinion show host Mario Silva slung the latest volley of mud at Capriles, claiming his family had purchased a multi-million-dollar New York City apartment with stolen money.

Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges condemned Villegas' political use of last night's health bulletin. "I lament such a poverty of humanity," he tweeted.

Pro-Chavez militant Enrique Barroso sounded grave when reached by telephone.

"This is not easy for him nor for us," he said. "We call on the people to pray and hold vigil for the health of the president."

One of Chavez's three daughters, Maria Gabriela, expressed thanks to well-wishers via her Twitter account. "We will prevail!" she wrote, echoing a favorite phrase of her father. "With God always."

There has been speculation that Chavez's cancer has spread to his lungs and can't be halted.

An oncologist not involved in Chavez's treatment, which has been conducted in tightly enforced secrecy, told The Associated Press that he viewed Villegas' statement as recognition that Chavez's condition is "truly precarious."

He called into question the veracity of Villegas' statement that Chavez had been undergoing chemotherapy, saying patients in such a delicate state are not put on chemotherapy.

Maduro said last week, in the first such announcement, that the president had begun receiving chemotherapy around the end of January.

Doctors have said that such therapy was not necessarily to try to beat Chavez's cancer into remission but could have been palliative, to extend Chavez's life and ease his suffering.

While in Cuba, Chavez suffered severe respiratory infection in late December that nearly killed him, Maduro said last week. A tracheal tube was inserted then and government officials have said his breathing remained labored.

They have sent mixed signals throughout Chavez's post-operative days, and in an early February opinion survey nearly three in five Venezuelans said they believed the president whose largesse has endeared him to the poor would recover.

In Cuba, Chavez has undergone a series of radiation treatments and chemotherapy after his operations.

The entire treatment regimen was kept far from public scrutiny.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Business Relationship Manager - Enfield, North Lond...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea