Venezuela’s Chavez still has “severe” respiratory problem

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is still suffering a “severe” respiratory infection that has hindered his breathing as he struggles to recover from cancer surgery in Cuba, the government said yesterday.

The 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen in public nor heard from in more than three weeks. Officials say he is in delicate condition after his fourth operation in just 18 months for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvic area.

“Comandante Chavez has faced complications as a result of a severe lung infection,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in the latest official update on the president’s condition.

“This infection has caused a breathing insufficiency that requires Comandante Chavez to comply strictly with medical treatment,” the communique added, giving no further details.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro had earlier returned to Venezuela on Thursday after visiting Chavez in hospital as rumors swirled that the president could be close to death.

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