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Chavez struggles to breathe

A woman writes in front of a poster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas yesterday.

CARACAS — Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, is suffering from “complications” brought on by a “severe lung infection” which developed after surgery, officials say.

Chavez, 58, had his fourth operation for cancer in Cuba on December 11 and then developed a respiratory infection.

In a statement from Caracas, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said the infection had “led to a respiratory insufficiency”.

Chavez is due to be sworn in for another term in office on 10 January.

“Chavez has faced complications as a consequence of a severe lung infection,” said Villegas.

The president has not been seen in public since having cancer surgery in Havana, prompting persistent speculation about his condition.

The information minister was among a number of Chavez’s political allies who have urged people not to believe what they called lies about his health.

Villegas warned Venezuelans not to be taken in by a “psychological war” being fought in the media which had the “ultimate aim of destabilising the Bolivarian republic”.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly Head Diosdado Cabello visited Chavez this week, along with several other dignitaries.

Maduro said on Wednesday that President Chavez was “conscious” and had gripped his hand firmly as they discussed Venezuelan politics.

He and Cabello flew back to Caracas on Thursday and dismissed rumours of a split in the governing socialist movement.

“We’re more unified than ever,” Maduro said upon his return to Venezuela from Cuba.

“We swore in front of Commander Chavez that we’ll be united at the side of our people,” he said. (BBC)

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