Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez has a respiratory infection after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba and must have “complete rest” for the next few days, the government said today.
The socialist leader is in a stable condition after being diagnosed with the infection on Monday,
information minister Ernesto Villegas said on television, reading a government statement.
“It has been controlled,” Mr Villegas said. “In the opinion of the doctors, this type of ailment is one of the consequences that appear with the greatest frequency in patients who have undergone complicated surgeries.”
The infection appeared a week after a six-hour operation that the government has said involved complications.
“The medical team has said that President Chavez should have complete rest in the coming days and receive … the prescribed medical treatment, with the purpose of maintaining the stability of his vital signs that he currently enjoys,” Mr Villegas said.
Concluding the statement, he said: “Long live Chavez!”
The announcement came amid uncertainty and concern over the 58-year-old president’s health.
Mr Chavez has not spoken publicly since his December 11 surgery for an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer, his fourth cancer-related operation since June 2011.
His elder brother Adan planned to travel to Cuba to visit the president, the government newspaper Correo del Orinoco said. It also said that the president’s father, Hugo de los Reyes Chavez, had plans to travel to Havana and that Mr Chavez’s mother might go with him.
Against the backdrop of Mr Chavez’s illness, many Venezuelans are talking about the possibility of a looming transition of power and a new presidential election. Before undergoing surgery, Mr Chavez designated vice president Nicolas Maduro as his chosen successor to take his place if necessary.
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos expressed concern about what might happen if a post-Chavez transition were to go badly. In a radio interview, he said a peaceful and problem-free change would have “no repercussion in the region”.
“What would be terrible is if that transition weren’t easy, were problematic,” Mr Santos said. “That would generate problems in the region. That’s why I’ve said that Chavez is a factor of stability at this time.”
Mr Chavez’s government has been appointed a facilitator in peace talks between Colombia’s government and rebels, and Mr Santos noted that he has had a good relationship with Venezuela’s left-wing leader despite their differences.
“I hope it stays that way, whether with Chavez or with his replacement,” Mr Santos said, adding that he had spoken with Mr Maduro on various occasions.
Government officials say the president’s four children and a son-in-law have been with him in Havana since the operation. The government has said he suffered complications during the operation but has been recovering.
Mr Santos said he did not have specific information about Chavez’s condition.
“I know that it’s complicated,” he said in a radio interview. “He wouldn’t have said goodbye in that way if he didn’t have complications, but today I don’t know his exact state of health, and nobody does.”
The leaders of Bolivia and Uruguay have expressed interest in travelling to Havana to visit Mr Chavez, though so far neither has made the trip.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff called Mr Maduro yesterday to congratulate Mr Chavez’s allies for winning most governorships in elections on Sunday, and she also asked about Mr Chavez’s health.
“Maduro told Dilma that Chavez is recovering, and the president wished the Venezuelan president a speedy recovery,” Ms Rousseff’s office said on its website.
Adan Chavez, the eldest of six brothers in the president’s family, was re-elected governor in the president’s home state of Barinas over the weekend.
Mr Chavez is due to be sworn in for a new six-year term on January 10. Under Venezuela’s constitution, if the president dies, is incapacitated or steps down, a new election would be held within 30 days.