Venezuela's Chavez still suffers breathing trouble

Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:29pm EST
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By Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's cancer-stricken president, Hugo Chavez, is still suffering respiratory problems after surgery in Cuba two months ago, the government said on Thursday in a somber first communiqué since his homecoming this week.

Struggling to talk and breathing through a tracheal tube, the 58-year-old socialist leader is being treated at a Caracas military hospital after returning unseen before dawn on Monday.

Long accustomed to the drama and speculation over Chavez's health since cancer was first detected in June 2011, Venezuelans are now debating if he can recover and return to active rule, or may resign and try to ensure his vice president wins a vote.

Some think he may have simply come home to die.

"The breathing insufficiency that emerged post-operation persists, and the tendency has not been favorable, so it is still being treated," read the communiqué, in gloomy news for Chavez's millions of passionate supporters.

The short statement, read by Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, said, however, that treatment for Chavez's "base illness" - presumably the cancer first diagnosed in his pelvic area - continued without "significant adverse effects for now."


Little detailed medical information has been made public on Chavez's condition, meaning the government's occasional short statements are pored over by Venezuelans for clues about the future for him and the nation he has dominated since 1999.   Continued...

A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez waves a national flag next to a giant picture of Chavez, in front of a military hospital where Chavez is being treated, in Caracas February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins