Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's breathing problems have worsened and he is suffering a new, severe respiratory infection after cancer surgery in Cuba, the government has said.

Information minister Ernesto Villegas said in a brief statement on Tuesday that the 58-year-old's condition continued to be "very delicate".

"Today there is a worsening of respiratory function. Related to his depressed immune system, there is now a new, severe infection," he said in the statement, read from the Caracas military hospital where Chavez is being treated.

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"The president has been receiving high-impact chemotherapy, along with other complementary treatments... his general condition continues to be very delicate."

Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Caracas, said that Villegas had said that the president is "clinging to his faith in Christ". 

Chavez has not been seen in public, apart from one set of photos, since a December 11 cancer operation in Cuba. 

In January, the country's top court endorsed postponing his inauguration and ruled that the president and his deputy would continue in their roles, despite opposition complaints.

Hundreds of students and other critics of his government staged a protest earlier this week to demand more information about his health. 

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, his chosen successor, said over the weekend that Chavez was still sending instructions about political and economic policies.

Officials say Chavez has been in hospital since returning from Cuba two weeks ago.

Source: Al Jazeera And Agencies