'Very delicate': Venezuela reports Chavez breathing woes get worse
By Laurent Thomet, AFPCARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is suffering from a severe infection and his breathing has worsened during chemotherapy, putting him in a “very delicate” state, the government said late Monday.
March 6, 2013, 12:11 am TWN
The once omnipresent face of the Latin American left, now breathing with the aid of a tracheal tube, has neither emerged nor spoken in public in almost three months, leaving the oil-rich nation and the wider region on tenterhooks.
“Currently, he has a new and severe infection,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in a statement read from Chavez's hospital, adding that there was a “worsening of respiratory function.”
The somber government statement came two weeks after Chavez, 58, checked into a Caracas military hospital following two months of treatment in Cuba, where he underwent his fourth round of cancer surgery since June 2011.
Saying Chavez continues to “cling to Christ and life,” Villegas reiterated that he was undergoing “intensive chemotherapy, as well as complementary treatments” and that his “condition continues to be very delicate.”
Chavez's prolonged absence — which prevented him from being sworn into a new six-year term earlier this year — has angered the opposition, which accuses the government of lying about his condition.
Hundreds of people joined an opposition-led march Sunday demanding that the government reveal more details about the condition of the president of this South American nation, which sits atop the world's largest proven oil reserves.
Officials have only released a set of photos showing him in his Havana hospital bed, smiling with two daughters, on Feb. 15, three days before his homecoming. The scarcity of images has fueled rumors about his health.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro, his chosen successor, and other senior officials have lashed out at the opposition and rumors that Chavez may be dead or dying, saying it is all part of a campaign to destabilize the nation.
Villegas called on Venezuelans to be on guard in the face of a “psychological war deployed by foreign laboratories with spokespeople in the corrupt Venezuelan right who seek to generate violent scenarios as a pretext for a foreign intervention.”
The government, he added, “rejects the hypocritical attitude of Hugo Chavez's historical enemies, who have always shown him hate, insults and contempt, and who are now using his health situation as an excuse to destabilize Venezuela.”
A few hours before the statement, state-run television showed the presidential guard inaugurating a new tank squadron.
“Whatever happens, with Chavez it will always be for us: 'With Chavez everything, without Chavez nothing,'” said General Jose Ornelas, the squadron's commander and head of the armed forces.
Officials and relatives, meanwhile, sent messages of support on Twitter.
One of Chavez's daughters, Maria Gabriela, thanked supporters on Twitter, writing: “All my love to you! We continue to cling to God! Thanks for the messages of solidarity!”