Venezuela's Hugo Chavez suffers new severe infection

Watch Information Minister Ernesto Villegas' latest update on Mr Chavez's condition

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is suffering from a new, severe respiratory infection following cancer surgery, the government has said.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Mr Chavez's condition continued to be very delicate.

Mr Chavez, 58, returned to Venezuela last month after being treated for cancer in Cuba, but has not appeared in public since.

Many Venezuelans have been demanding full details about his health.

'Complementary treatments'

Mr Villegas read out the latest brief update on national television.

Analysis

The information minister chose to speak on national radio and TV, at 22:00 on Monday night. His tone was stern. His call, as ever, was for Mr Chavez's supporters to ignore what he called the "psychological war" of rumours.

But that is a game Venezuelans do not seem to be able to escape. It is not what Venezuelan ministers say, but what they do not say that seems to matter the most.

Venezuelans have become used to reading between the lines of the official announcements about Mr Chavez's health. Since last October's presidential election, he has rarely been seen in public.

Ever since it was announced he was going to undergo surgery in December, his condition has been the object of public speculation. And this time, it appears to be serious.

Speaking from the Caracas military hospital where Mr Chavez is being treated, Mr Villegas said: "Today there is a worsening of respiratory function."

He said Mr Chavez was undergoing "intensive chemotherapy, as well as complementary treatments".

"The commander-president remains clinging to Christ and to life, conscious of the difficulties that he is facing, and complying strictly with the programme designed by his medical team," Mr Villegas said.

Mr Chavez, who has been in office for 14 years, is believed to have cancer in his pelvic area, but his exact illness has never been disclosed.

He announced in June 2011 that he had cancer and has undergone four operations since then, as well as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The president was re-elected for another six-year term in October 2012, but the Supreme Court ruled that his swearing-in on 10 January could be delayed because of his illness.

At the weekend, hundreds of Venezuelan students and opposition members marched in Caracas demanding full details about President Chavez's health.

Hugo Chavez

  • Born 28 July 1954 in Sabaneta, Barinas state, the son of schoolteachers
  • Graduated from military academy in 1975
  • Has four children
  • Keen baseball player

He is said to be taking decisions about the country from the hospital bed but there have been mixed messages from officials on his condition.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday that Mr Chavez was still having chemotherapy.

On Thursday, Mr Maduro had gone on TV to say Mr Chavez was battling for his life.

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