Reports say that the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is in an induced coma and is being kept alive by life support after complications following a cancer surgery. Sources say his Cuban doctors may decide to switch off the life support "at any moment."
According to GlobalPost, Spanish language newspaper ABC, reports that a team of mostly Russian doctors operated on Chavez in Havana on Dec.11 in a bid to stop the spread of an aggressive form of cancer in his pelvic region. According to the report, the cancer has since the last surgery spread into his lower spine, bladder and other organs, and a respiratory infection has left him in a critical state.
The Spanish language newspaper, ABC, reported on Wednesday that Chavez is in an induced coma and has been placed on life support in an unnamed hospital in Havana. Doctors say they may have to switch off the support machines "at any moment." The sources said Chavez is showing "very weak" signs of life.
However, the ABC report has not been confirmed independently and some news sources have expressed skepticism about the paper's credibility. According to GlobalPost, its correspondent in Havana, Nick Miroff, said the truth about the situation is unclear. The correspondent said: "His true condition is a Venezuelan state secret, so until the state gives more information, we probably won't really know how Chavez is doing or if any of this stuff is true." He cast doubt on ABC's reliability, citing a previous inaccurate report about the "imminent death" of Fidel Castro. Miroff said: "The right-leaning ABC hasn't been a particularly reliable source of information from Cuba in the past... Still, no one doubts Chavez's health is precarious, as Venezuelan officials acknowledge."
There has been tension in Venezuela in the past week with rumors and speculations about Chavez's death. Many Venezuelans have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of information. The country's Vice President Nicolas Maduro, whom Chavez officially named his successor in December after news that his cancer had returned, has denied the story that Chavez is in a coma, but he failed to provide detailed information. In remarks he made at the end of a televised interview, he claimed that Chavez was conscious. He told Venezuelans to ignore the gossips, rumors and speculations that were being spread by the "enemies of Venezuela." However, he admitted that Chavez faces "a complex and delicate situation."
Maduro said that when he talked with the president, he seemed to have "the same strength as always." He said: "He (Chavez) is totally conscious of the complexity of his post-operative state and he expressly asked us... to keep the nation informed always, always with the truth, as hard as it may be in certain circumstances."
The Daily Mail reports Maduro said: "All the time we've been hoping for his positive evolution. Sometimes he has had light improvements, sometimes stationary situations."
Chavez's political opponents have also criticized the government for not dealing with the rumors by releasing full information. They have demanded that the government release a full medical report.
Chavez has been fighting an aggressive form of pelvic cancer since June 2011. He has had previous surgeries but he has refused to give precise details about his illness. On December 8, soon after he won re-election, Chavez announced that his cancer had come back.
Many Venezuelans now believe it is unlikely that Chavez will be sworn in for his fourth term on January 10. UPI reports that the National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, said the swearing-in could be postponed if Chavez is unable make it on January 10 for the ceremony. But opposition leaders say that would be unconstitutional.
While government officials argue that the Constitution makes no provisions for what happens if a president-elect cannot begin his term, opposition leaders have said that the Constitution says that in the case of an "absolute absence" of the president, fresh elections must be held within 30 days.