Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chavez is being treated for a respiratory deficiency after complications from a severe lung infection, his government said today.
Information minister Ernesto Villegas provided the update on the president's condition, reading from a statement saying that Mr Chavez's lung infection had led to "respiratory deficiency" and required strict compliance with his medical treatment.
The government expressed confidence in the medical team in Cuba treating Mr Chavez, who is battling cancer and has undergone four operations.
Mr Chavez, 58, has not been seen or heard from since his December 11 cancer surgery, and speculation has grown that his illness could be reaching its final stages.
The president's elder brother Adan and National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello joined a parade of visitors who saw Mr Chavez in Havana this week, and then returned to Caracas yesterday along with vice president Nicolas Maduro.
Mr Chavez's health crisis has raised contentious questions ahead of his swearing-in for a new presidential term set for January 10, including whether the inauguration could legally be postponed, Supreme Court justices might travel to Havana to administer the oath of office, and, most of all, what will happen if Mr Chavez cannot begin his new term.
"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," Mr Villegas said, reading the statement on television.
The statement raised the possibility that Mr Chavez might be breathing with the assistance of a machine. But the government did not address that question and did not give details of the president's treatment.
The government expressed confidence in Mr 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 rumours about Mr Chavez's condition.
In its latest statement, the government did not point to any particular rumours but said "this campaign aims ultimately to destabilise 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 Mr Chavez's condition.
He has had four operations 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.