Venezuela's Chavez suffers breathing problems

Cancer-stricken president still suffering respiratory problems after his fourth operation in Cuba two months ago.

    Venezuela's Chavez suffers breathing problems
    Since his surgery, Chavez has not been seen publicly except in the few photos released by the government [AFP]

    Venezuela's cancer-stricken president, Hugo Chavez, is still suffering respiratory problems after his operation in Cuba more than two months ago, according to officials.

    Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Chavez was continuing to receive treatment at a military hospital in Caracas.

    "The breathing insufficiency that emerged post-operation persists, and the tendency has not been favourable, so it is still being treated"

    - Ernesto Villegas, Information Minister

    "The breathing insufficiency that emerged post-operation persists, and the tendency has not been favourable, so it is still being treated," read the first official communique on Chavez's health since his return to Venezuela on Monday.

    Friday's statement, read on national TV by Villegas, said treatment for Chavez's "base illness" - presumably the cancer first detected in mid-2011 - continued without "significant adverse effects for now".

    Little detailed medical information has been made public on Chavez's condition, meaning that the government's occasional short statements are examined by Venezuelans for clues about the future for him and the nation he has governed for 14 years.

    Since his surgery on December 11 in Havana - his fourth surgery for cancer - the only photos released of him came out almost a week ago. Chavez was seen bed-ridden but smiling, looking through a newspaper with two of his daughters at his side.

    At the Caracas military hospital where Chavez is said to be continuing his convalescence, soldiers are on guard outside to keep out journalists and curious onlookers.

    Local press reports quote hospital staff as saying they know nothing and have not seen the president.

    Public doubt

    Supporters pray the socialist president may recover and return to active rule, but many Venezuelans believe he has come home to resign and smooth over a transition, or simply to die.

    Chavez announced his return in a series of messages on Monday on his Twitter account

    The burst of joy many Venezuelans felt on Chavez's return from Cuba seems to be petering out, and the veil of secrecy surrounding him has been maintained - allowing doubts about his condition to deepen.

    Besides the president's health, public debate centres on his delayed swearing-in to a third term, which he won in October presidential elections.

    Chavez, 58, missed the scheduled inauguration ceremony on January 10, and it has been delayed indefinitely, angering many in the opposition.

    "The patient remains in communication with relatives and the government political group in close collaboration with the medical work group," the statement added.

    "The president holds firm to Christ, with absolute will to live and maximum discipline in the treatment of his health."

    He returned home at 2:30am local time (07:00 GMT) on Monday without any of the fanfare or media attention that accompanied previous homecomings after treatment.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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