Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is confronting "new complications" due to a respiratory infection nearly three weeks after undergoing cancer surgery, his vice president said in Cuba as he visited the ailing leader for the first time since his operation.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro looked weary and spoke with a solemn expression in a televised address from Havana on Sunday. He described Chavez’s condition as delicate.
"Several minutes ago we were with President Chavez. We greeted each other and he himself referred to these complications," Maduro said, reading from a prepared statement.
The vice president’s comments suggest an increasingly difficult fight for Chavez.
The Venezuelan leader has not been seen or heard from since undergoing his fourth cancer-related surgery Dec. 11, and government officials have said he might not return in time for his scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration for a new six-year term.
"The president gave us precise instructions so that, after finishing the visit, we would tell the (Venezuelan) people about his current health condition," Maduro said.
"President Chavez’s state of health continues to be delicate, with complications that are being attended to, in a process not without risks."
Maduro was seated alongside Chavez’s eldest daughter, Rosa, and son-in-law Jorge Arreaza, as well as Attorney General Cilia Flores. He held up a copy of a newspaper confirming that his message was recorded on Sunday.
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