Hugo Chavez too ill to talk, regime reveals

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Venezuela’s cancer-stricken president, Hugo Chavez, is still suffering respiratory problems after surgery in Cuba two months ago, the government yesterday.

The announcement was the first from the Socialist government since the president arrived home from Havana this week.

Struggling to talk and breathing through a tracheal tube, the 58-year-old politician is being treated at a Caracas military hospital after returning unheralded, and kept from public view, before dawn on Monday.

Long accustomed to the drama and speculation over Mr 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 takes over. Mr Chavez, in power for 14 years, is yet to be sworn in as president, after an election victory, missing the inauguration scheduled for 10 January.

Some think he may simply have come home to die.

“The breathing insufficiency that emerged post-operation persists, and the tendency has not been favourable, so it is still being treated,” read the official communiqué.

The statement, read by information minister Ernesto Villegas on Thursday night, saidthat treatment for Mr Chavez’s “base illness” – presumably the cancer first diagnosed in his pelvic area – continued without “significant adverse effects for now.”

Mr Chavez has named vice-president Nicolas Maduro, 50, as his preferred successor.