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Chavez battling respiratory infection, official says

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
December 19, 2012 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Venezuela's information minister said President Hugo Chavez is battling a respiratory infection.
Venezuela's information minister said President Hugo Chavez is battling a respiratory infection.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Doctors diagnose Venezuela's president with a respiratory infection
  • Information minister: Chavez is in stable condition and the infection is controlled
  • Chavez has not disclosed what type of cancer he has
  • The respiratory infection comes a week after cancer surgery

Read a version of this story in Arabic.

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is battling a respiratory infection, the country's information minister said Tuesday.

Chavez, who is undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba, was diagnosed with the infection Monday, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in televised remarks.

The Venezuelan president is in stable condition, and the infection has been controlled, Villegas said.

Chavez, who first announced he was battling cancer in June 2011, underwent surgery a week ago in Cuba.

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Read more: Chavez had complications in surgery, officials say

Chavez has not disclosed what type of cancer he has, and the Venezuelan government has released few details about Chavez's illness, fueling widespread speculation about his health and political future.

Doctors say the respiratory infection "is one of the results that most often is seen in patients that have undergone complicated surgeries," Villegas said Tuesday.

"The medical team reports that President Chavez must keep resting in the coming days and receive the most rigorous prescribed medical treatment, with the purpose of maintaining the stability of his vital functions, which he currently enjoys," he said.

Last week Villegas and another top government official struck a somber tone when discussing Chavez's illness.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez had suffered unexpected bleeding during surgery, which he said doctors had acted quickly to control.

Maduro said Chavez would face a "complex and difficult" recovery. His voice cracked as he asked Venezuelans to remain united and to pray for Chavez.

Venezuela: Maduro waits in the wings

Villegas suggested Chavez might not be not be back in Venezuela in time for his inauguration, which is scheduled for next month.

Venezuelans "should be prepared to understand" if Chavez doesn't return to Venezuela before the inauguration on January 10, Villegas said.

"It would be irresponsible to hide the delicacy of the current moment and the coming days," he wrote in a post on the information ministry's website.

Their tone was markedly different from previous government messages about Chavez's health.

Speaking at a political rally Thursday, Maduro said some had criticized him for delivering the news with such a somber expression.

"Our faces are expressions of pain and worry and the most pure love that we feel for our Commander Hugo Chavez," he said. "He gave us the order to prepare the people for any circumstance. And we have followed that to the letter."

Officials: Chavez faces 'difficult' recovery

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