CARACAS, Venezuela: Venezuela´s government has revealed for the first time that President Hugo Chavez has been receiving chemotherapy as he “continues his battle for life” since undergoing a fourth cancer surgery in Cuba.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro told reporters after a Mass for Chavez late Friday that doctors began the treatment after the socialist leader recovered in mid-January from a respiratory infection that followed his Dec. 11 operation in Havana.
The government has said Chavez was flown back to Caracas on Feb. 18 and is at the capital´s military hospital since.
Chavez has not been seen nor heard from since going to Cuba, except for a set of “proof of life” photos released Feb. 15.
He first revealed an unspecified cancer in the pelvic region in June 2011. He reported undergoing radiation treatment and chemotherapy after earlier operations.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP´s earlier story is below.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles accused Venezuela´s government Friday of repeatedly lying about President Hugo Chavez´s condition, and said the truth will be known within days.
Capriles tweeted the claim as Vice President Nicolas Maduro assured Venezuelans on national TV that their cancer-stricken president continues a difficult and slow recovery from Dec. 11 surgery.
“We´ll see how they explain to the country in the (coming) days all the lies they´ve been telling about the president´s situation,” said Capriles, whom Chavez defeated in Oct. 7 elections.
Chavez has not been seen nor heard from since, other than in some proof-of-life photos released on Feb. 15.
The government says the socialist who has been Venezuela´s leader for more than 14 years returned from Cuba three days later and is at Caracas´ military hospital.
But it has also sent mixed signals. On Thursday, Maduro said, not for the first time, that Chavez was battling for his life.
Maduro accused opponents of spreading rumors about Chavez´ health to destabilize the nation.
The opposition says Chavez should either be sworn in or declare himself incapable and call new elections. The constitution says he should have been sworn in on Jan. 10, but Venezuela´s Supreme Court said it was OK to wait.
Maduro attacked the Spanish newspaper ABC and Colombia´s Caracol network for allegedly spreading lies about Chavez´s condition. ABC said without specifying its source that Chavez´s cancer had spread to a lung. It said he had been moved to an island compound in the Caribbean.
Chavez´s son-in-law, Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, said on state TV that Chavez continues “to fight hard and is in the military hospital, as peaceful as he could be, with his doctors, with his family.”
Arreaza is one of a small circle with access to Chavez, who the government says is battling a “respiratory deficiency” following a post-operative respiratory infection that required a tracheal tube.
Maduro blamed “the bourgeoisie,” as the Chavez government refers to its opponents, of trying to destabilize the country and demanded they “cease the rumors.”