Update: President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has died.
Venezuelans are holding their breath after they received word that the condition of President Hugo Chavez has worsened, with the charismatic leader suffering from a new, severe respiratory infection after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba.
In a gloomy update, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said the 58-year-old leader’s condition was “very delicate.”
“Today there is a worsening of his respiratory function. Related to his depressed immune system, there is now a new, severe infection,” Villegas said. “The president has been receiving high-impact chemotherapy, along with other complementary treatments. . . His general condition continues to be very delicate.”
Since returning to Caracas from Cuba two weeks ago after his fourth cancer surgery, Chavez has been stashed away in a tightly guarded suite at a Caracas military hospital. Outside the hospital, the opposition has grown increasingly vocal about the state of the country’s leadership.
Villegas said Chavez was “standing by Christ and life conscious of the difficulties he faces.” He attacked “the corrupt Venezuelan right” for seeking “scenarios of violence as a pretext for foreign intervention.” Villegas reached out to Chavez’s many loyal supporters, which include thousands of well-armed militia, to be “on a war footing.”
On state TV Monday night, opinion show host Mario Silva took another shot at Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate who lost to Chavez in October. Silva claimed Capriles had purchased a multi-million-dollar New York City apartment with stolen money.
Reached by the Associated Press, pro-Chavez militant Enrique Barroso was not hopeful.
“This is not easy for him nor for us,” he said. “We call on the people to pray and hold vigil for the health of the president.”
One of Chavez’s three daughters, Maria Gabriela, went on Twitter to express thanks to well-wishers. “We will prevail!” she wrote, echoing a favorite phrase of her father. “With God always.”
Some observes have speculated that Chavez’s cancer has spread to his lungs and cannot be halted.
An unidentified oncologist interviewed by The Associated Press said he viewed Villegas’ statement as recognition that Chavez’s condition is “truly precarious.” But he said he didn’t necessarily believe Villegas’ statement that Chavez had been undergoing chemotherapy, saying patients in such a delicate state are not put on chemotherapy.
Some doctors have speculated that the chemotherapy perhaps wasn’t to try to beat Chavez’s cancer into remission, but instead was an attempt to extend Chavez’s life and ease his suffering.