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New Year's concert called off in Caracas as Chavez battles 'new complications'

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Dana Ford, CNN
December 31, 2012 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officials say Venezuelans should ring in the new year praying for Chavez
  • A concert is called off in Caracas amid news that Chavez is battling fresh complications
  • Venezuela's vice president says Chavez's health remains "delicate"
  • Complications have emerged from a respiratory infection, the vice president says

(CNN) -- Leaders in Venezuela's capital are asking residents to take a more somber approach than usual to ring in the New Year.

Instead of marking the occasion with salsa music, Venezuelans should pray for President Hugo Chavez's health, Caracas officials say.

Ten bands had been scheduled to take the stage in a free concert in the historic center of the city Monday. But officials called off the show after they got word that Chavez had suffered "new complications" from cancer surgery.

"Everyone should pray, sending strength to our Commander to overcome this difficult moment," Jacqueline Faria, a Chavez appointee and top official in Caracas, said in a Twitter post announcing the concert's cancellation.

The bands that were scheduled to perform in the concert Monday "will cede space so that Venezuelan families can bring in 2013 praying for the president's health," Venezuela's state-run AVN news agency reported.

The cancellation, announced Sunday night, came after Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in televised remarks that Chavez's health condition remained "delicate" 19 days after surgery.

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Maduro said Chavez, 58, had suffered new complications that emerged as a result of a respiratory infection the Venezuelan president has been battling.

He did not provide additional details, but said the complications "are being treated in a process that is not without risks."

Maduro spoke in Havana, Cuba, where Chavez is undergoing treatment. He said he had met with Chavez, who has not been seen in public or heard from for weeks.

"Thanks to his physical and spiritual strength, Comandante Chavez is confronting this difficult situation," Maduro said.

The Venezuelan president first announced he was battling cancer in June 2011.

Read more: Venezuela deports French man over alleged Chavez plot

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

Last year, Chavez had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor and he has undergone further surgery and radiation in Cuba since. He returned to the island nation this month for more surgery after publicly revealing that his cancer had returned.

He underwent a six-hour surgical procedure on December 11 that Maduro, in a televised address, declared a success.

A week after the president's surgery, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Chavez was battling a respiratory infection.

Recently Villegas and Maduro have struck a somber tone when discussing the president's illness, in contrast to previous government messages about his health. Villegas has suggested Chavez might not be not be back in Venezuela in time for his inauguration, which is scheduled for January 10.

Chavez addressed the delicate nature of his health before leaving Venezuela for Cuba. He said that if his condition were to worsen, Maduro should replace him as president. It was the first time Chavez had spoken about a possible successor.

Read more: Hugo Chavez fast facts

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