Hugo Chavez's 'breathing problems persist'

Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas: "The president holds firm to Christ, with absolute will to live"

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is still suffering breathing problems following his return from Cuba where he was treated for cancer, officials say.

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

It was the first official communique on the president's health since he returned to Venezuela on Monday.

Mr Chavez went to Havana for surgery on 11 December.

It was his fourth operation in an 18-month period for cancer, which was first diagnosed in mid-2011.

He is said to have suffered a severe respiratory infection following the latest surgery.

"The breathing insufficiency that emerged post-operation persists, and the tendency has not been favourable, so it is still being treated," Mr Villegas said in a televised statement.

President Chavez, in office for 14 years, was re-elected for another six-year term in October 2012, but his swearing-in was delayed because of his illness.

Doubts remain about whether his health will allow him to return to active politics.

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