Ordinary Venezuelans have been told to ignore rumors that President Hugo Chavez is on death’s door after a report surfaced that Chavez was placed in a coma and could die at any minute.
Chavez flew to Cuba some three weeks ago to seek treatment and undergo surgery for cancer and has not been heard from since.
Citing sources close to the matter, Spanish newspaper ABC reported on Wednesday that Chavez was placed in an induced coma and is being kept alive on life support. The sources said that they are considering ending life support after Chavez showed extremely weak vital signs.
Venezuelan officials told the paper that Chavez is still alive, but they appear to be preparing for his death. If Chavez dies, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, a former foreign minister, was deemed his successor last year.
Maduro, however, told Venezuelan television that Chavez was conscious and aware of his complicated post-operative situation following three weeks of relative stability after his operation on Dec. 11
“Twenty-one days have passed since his operation –a three-week, very complex post-operative stage,” Maduro said, according to El Universal. He said that he visited Chavez twice since he arrived in Havana on Dec. 29 and was able to talk with the leftist leader.
Maduro blamed some of the “rumors” of Chavez’s failing health on opposition parties. “They (some opposition sectors) want the people’s love to turn into uncontrollable anger. Some in the right-wing think this will be good for them,” he said.
Neither Chavez nor the government has disclosed what kind of cancer Chavez is suffering from, while few details of his illness have been released to the public. Last year, Chavez underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and underwent more surgery and radiation therapy in Cuba before his latest procedure.
Opposition members have said the rumors and reports fueled by the government’s secrecy over Chavez’s health.
Opposition coalition leader Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said that government statements about Chavez’s condition “continues to be insufficient,” reported The Associated Press.
“They should tell the truth,” Aveledo maintained, while acknowledging that Maduro had said he would give a full disclosure about Chavez’s health. But he said that the government should release a medical report.
Chavez has to appear in person by Jan. 10 to be sworn in for a new term. If he cannot make that date, Aveledo noted that the constitution says that the National Assembly should take over governing the country temporarily until a new election can be held.
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