Venezuela tells foes stop dreaming of Chavez death

CARACAS,  (Reuters) – Senior allies of Venezuela’s  socialist President Hugo Chavez have dismissed reports he is  sicker than the government has admitted, telling his enemies to  “stop dreaming” of his death.

Hugo Chavez

The normally verbose leader has not been seen in public  since a June 10 operation in Cuba to remove a pelvic swelling.  His long absence has prompted widespread speculation he may be  seriously ill, possibly being treated for prostate cancer.

Accusing opponents of cynically rejoicing at his health  problems, government officials insist Chavez, 56, is fine and  that he should be back for a regional summit planned for  Venezuela’s 200th anniversary of independence on July 5.

“President Chavez is recovering well from his surgery. His  enemies should stop dreaming and his friends should stop  worrying,” Vice Foreign Minister Temir Porras said on the  social networking site Twitter.

“The only thing that has metastasized is the cancer of the  Miami Herald and the rest of the right-wing press.”

A report in the Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald’s  Spanish-language sister paper, on Saturday cited unnamed U.S.  intelligence officials as saying Chavez was in “critical  condition” at a hospital in Havana. A senior U.S. official cast doubt on that report, telling  Reuters that Washington was hearing lots of speculation about  Chavez’s health but had no firm intelligence.

“The fact is, we just don’t know,” the official said.

CANCER DENIAL

Fernando Soto Rojas, a Chavez ally who heads the National  Assembly, said the president would be back before the summit  scheduled for July 5-6 on Margarita island off Venezuela’s  Caribbean coast.

“Chavez is recuperating and we will have him here, thank  God, on July 5,” he told reporters yesterday.

Asked if the president was being treated for cancer, Soto  Rojas denied it and said: “I would be the first to tell the  country” if that were the case.

The absence of Chavez, a former soldier who has  nationalized much of the economy, has underlined his total  dominance of Venezuelan politics, and the lack of any obvious  successor after his 12 years in power.

Vice President Elias Jaua said Chavez would return soon.

“The national and international right-wing are going crazy,  rubbing their hands together … even talking about the death  of the president,” he said in a speech, adding that Chavez’s  rivals were exposing themselves as anti-democratic fascists.

“They know they cannot win elections against our  comandante,” Jaua said.  Opposition politician Miguel Angel Rodriguez said the  government was neglecting its constitutional obligations by not  providing more detailed information on Chavez’s condition.

“The uncertainty about the health of Hugo Chavez and the  grave speculation about the true picture of what afflicts him  reveals severe constitutional failures by the government in its  duty to inform,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Chavez sent several Twitter messages on Friday from his  @chavezcandanga account, which is followed by more than 1.6  million people, but said nothing about his health.

He continued tweeting on Saturday, expressing pride in a  big new housing project and saying his daughter Rosines and  grandchildren had flown to Cuba to visit him. “Ah, what  happiness to receive this bath of love! God blesses me!” he  wrote.

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