World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's breathing problems have worsened and he is suffering from a "severe" new respiratory infection as he struggles to recover from cancer surgery, the government said in a somber medical update on Monday.
The 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen in public nor heard from in almost three months since undergoing the operation in Cuba. It was his fourth surgery since the disease was detected in mid-2011.
"Today there is a worsening of his respiratory function, related to his depressed immune system. There is now a new, severe infection," Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said, reading the latest brief statement on Chavez's condition.
Chavez made a surprise pre-dawn homecoming two weeks ago with none of the fanfare and celebration that had accompanied previous returns from treatment in Havana. The government said he is now fighting for his life at a Caracas military hospital. Armed guards are providing heavy security outside.
"The president has been receiving high-impact chemotherapy, along with other complementary treatments ... his general condition continues to be very delicate," Villegas said.
Chavez suffered multiple complications after the Dec. 11 surgery, including unexpected bleeding and an earlier severe respiratory infection that officials said had been controlled.
The government said he had trouble speaking because he was breathing through a tracheal tube, but that he was giving orders to ministers by writing them down.
"The commander-president remains clinging to Christ and to life, conscious of the difficulties that he is facing, and complying strictly with the program designed by his medical team," Villegas said.
Chavez had undergone several grueling rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, which at times left him bald and bloated. He twice wrongly declared himself cured.
The only sight of the former soldier since his latest operation were four photos published by the government while he was still in Havana, showing him lying in a hospital bed.
Following an emotional Mass at the military hospital on Friday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro - Chavez's preferred successor if he is unable to carry on as president - said the president had decided for himself several days earlier that he would return to Venezuela from Cuba.
Chavez was going to begin a "tougher and more intense" phase of his treatment, Maduro said, and he wanted to be in Caracas.
Maduro said that included chemotherapy - prompting some in the opposition to question whether chemotherapy can be successfully given to patients in such a delicate state.
The government is furious at rumors in recent days that Chavez might have died, blaming them on an opposition plot by "far-right fascists" to destabilize the OPEC nation, which boasts the world's biggest oil reserves.
"We call on all our people to stay alert, untouched by the psychological war deployed by foreign laboratories with the corrupt Venezuelan right, seeking to generate violence as a pretext for a foreign intervention," Villegas said.
"At this time, unity and discipline are the bases to guarantee political stability," he said, adding that the government was accompanying Chavez's children and other relatives in "this battle full of love and spirituality."
Opposition leaders have accused Maduro of repeatedly lying about the president's real condition. Several dozen anti-government student protesters have chained themselves up in public to demand proof that Chavez is alive and in Venezuela.
Should the Venezuelan leader step down or die, an election would be held within 30 days and would probably pit Maduro against opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in a presidential election in October.
The stakes are also high for the rest of Latin America. Chavez has been the most vocal critic of Washington in the region and has funded hefty aid programs for leftist governments from Bolivia to Cuba.
Oil-producing Libya has turned into a major transit route for refugees fleeing conflict and poverty to make it to Europe.
Environmentalists have pointed the finger accusing Obama of hypocrisy who has stressed the need for action on climate change and has allowed for the drilling to continue.
Protesters say mass graves have been found in Muslim-dominated areas in Kenya, while bodies have been discovered in rivers and forests
South Sudanese President has ordered all government to troops to cease fighting with a 72 hr deadline that will take effect on Saturday evening.
A consortium with 162 giant US companies will develop electronics, sensors that flex and stretch into clothing or skins of ships and jets
Kerry reiterated his government's call for Iran to release two other Americans as well
AU and Khartoum enjoy good relations as African leaders have supported Sudan's president in his battle against ICC
TRNC foreign minister says intensity fuelling discussions has not been seen since the 2004 'Annan plan'
Journalist allegedly demanded$3.4 mn not to publish the book, which reportedly contains damaging revelations about Mohammed VI
Death toll from grim discovery more than double than initial estimate
UN says migrant flow increased by a third since 2014
Dozens of Jewish settlers overnight took over a large, five-story building in Silwan, and tried to force a Palestinian family who resides in it and holds a legal rental contract, to leave.
Austrian newspaper Krone has said that three people have been arrested over the truck tragedy that saw 90 refugees found dead in a lorry.
As Ukraine readies itself for entry into the EU, leaders have backed less restricted travel for Ukraine amid migration crisis in Europe
With porous borders and disease outbreaks inside and around Uganda, authorities are using Twitter to speed up response times
German Justice Ministry, Facebook will discuss protection of people against abuse, hate speech and bullying