Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela doctors reject Hugo Chavez dying claim

President Hugo Chavez talks to the media as he arrives at La Fria airport in Venezuela on 20 October 2011.
Image caption The doctors have not said what type of cancer Mr Chavez has

Doctors treating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have disputed a claim that he has only two years to live.

The claim was made by Dr Salvador Navarrete, who has fled Venezuela, saying he feared for his life.

Dr Navarrete said last week that Mr Chavez had a very aggressive form of cancer.

A member of Mr Chavez's medical team said Dr Navarrete was wrong and had no access to the president's clinical records.

In their first official public comments on the Venezuelan leader's health, three doctors dressed in white coats said Salvador Navarrete was uninformed and had only had minimal contact with Mr Chavez 10 years ago.

"The president, from the standpoint of cancer, has been diagnosed and treated early. Subject to the appropriate follow-up treatments, the current status is quite satisfactory with an excellent prognosis," one of the doctors, Fidel Ramirez, said in a televised news conference at Venezuela's main military hospital in Caracas.

"Navarrete was not Chavez's physician, or a trusted party, or his family," Dr Ramirez said.

But the three doctors still did not say what type of cancer the Venezuelan leader has.

'Complete secrecy'

On Thursday, Mr Chavez returned from a medical check-up in Cuba saying he was cured.

Dr Navarrete made the remarks about the Venezuelan leader's health to a Mexican magazine, Milenio, last Monday.

He said in the interview that he had treated Mr Chavez around 10 years ago and had stayed in touch with members of the president's family and medical team.

Dr Navarrete said he had information from the family that the president was suffering from a serious form of cancer - a sarcoma - in his pelvis.

"I'm worried that the president and those around him do not know the full magnitude of his illness given it has been handled with complete secrecy," he said.

After the interview was published, he said in an open letter published by local media on Friday that police had visited his office, and had searched his files and computers.

He fled Venezuela, along with his family, to an undisclosed location.

The 57-year-old president insists he is well enough to run in the 2012 elections and serve another six-year term.

Mr Chavez travelled to Cuba four months ago for surgery, and has had four cycles of chemotherapy.

Last month, he denied US media reports that he had been rushed to hospital with kidney failure linked to his cancer treatment.

Doctors warn that patients must generally wait at least two years after treatment before they can be considered out of danger.

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