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FILE - In this Oct 9, 2012 file photo, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez holds a miniature copy of his country's constitution during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela. The ailing president's health crisis has raised contentious questions ahead of the swearing-in set for Jan. 10, including whether the inauguration could legally be postponed. Officials have raised the possibility that Chavez might not be well enough to take the oath of office, without saying what will happen if he can't. The constitution says that if a president or president-elect dies or is declared unable to continue in office, presidential powers should be held temporarily by the president of the National Assembly and that a new presidential vote should be held within 30 days. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)
Venezuela’s Chavez fighting severe lung infection
First Published Jan 03 2013 10:07 pm • Last Updated Jan 03 2013 10:07 pm

Caracas, Venezuela • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is being treated for "respiratory deficiency" after complications from a severe lung infection, his government said Thursday.

The statement pointed to a deepening crisis for the ailing 58-year-old president, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since his Dec. 11 operation in Cuba.

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"Chavez has faced complications as a result of a severe respiratory infection. This infection has led to respiratory deficiency that requires Commander Chavez to remain in strict compliance with his medical treatment," Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Thursday night, reading the statement on television.

The statement raised the possibility that Chavez might be breathing with the assistance of a machine. But the government did not address that question and didn’t give details of the president’s treatment.

The government expressed confidence in Chavez’s medical team and condemned what it called a "campaign of psychological warfare" in the international media regarding the president’s condition. Officials have urged Venezuelans not to heed rumors about Chavez’s condition.

In its latest statement, the government didn’t point to any particular rumors but said "this campaign aims ultimately to destabilize the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela ... and end the Bolivarian Revolution led by Chavez."

Venezuela’s opposition has demanded that the government provide more specific information about Chavez’s condition.

Chavez has undergone four cancer-related surgeries since June 2011 for an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer. He also has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

He was re-elected in October to another six-year term, and two months later announced that the cancer had come back.




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