Mon, Mar 04, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Chavez still calling the shots, VP says

DEAD OR ALIVE?Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said that the ailing leader is running the country from his hospital bed, a claim the opposition say is a lie

AFP, CARACAS

A motorcyclist rides past a billboard showing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday. The poster reads: “Chavez, Alive and Smiling.”

Photo: EPA

Vendezuelan President Hugo Chavez is still in charge and mulling political, social and economic policies even as he receives a new round of chemotherapy, his vice president said on Saturday.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the 58-year-old socialist leader, who is convalescing in seclusion at a Caracas military hospital, had sent “guidance” to his Cabinet as recently as Friday.

“He is staying informed and in charge as the chief who was ratified by our people various times,” Maduro said during an event broadcast on state-run television.

However, the opposition says the government is lying about Chavez’s condition and doubts Maduro’s claim that Chavez held a five-hour meeting with his Cabinet on Feb. 22, giving orders in writing because a tracheal tube hinders his speech.

The vice president cast doubts aside and repeated that the meeting had taken place, insisting that the president had sent further instructions the following day, before offering fresh guidance on Friday.

Maduro, who is the leftist leader’s chosen successor, showed a dossier Chavez had requested containing “political, social and economic actions.”

He said the “central document” will be sent to Chavez, adding that the government was “respecting his treatment” and “not acting in an invasive way in his treatment.”

Chavez, who was first diagnosed with cancer in the pelvic region in June 2011, underwent a fourth round of surgery in Cuba in December last year. The government has never disclosed the exact nature, location and severity of the cancer.

Maduro revealed for the first time late on Friday that Chavez had began a new cycle of chemotherapy in January and decided to return to Caracas last month to continue a “more intense” phase of treatment.

Chavez was in “good spirits,” but fighting for his life, Maduro said.

One of Chavez’s daughters, Maria Gabriela, responded on Saturday to the online publication of a picture of her looking sad during Mass.

“Sadness? I can’t be happy when my dad is sick! But I continue to cling to my God,” she wrote on Twitter. “At the next mass I will have to dance and laugh! I always thought that a mass was something something serious! People are very crazy.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales, a close ally of Chavez who visited Venezuela late last month and made an unsuccessful attempt to visit him in hospital, also offered an insight on the situation.

Speaking to reporters in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Morales indicated that the Venezuelan president’s condition was unstable and prone to sudden changes.

“According to his doctors and family members, there are moments when he is feeling well and strong, but quickly problems appear and he suffers something like a relapse,” Morales said.

The Venezuelan leader has not been seen in public in almost three months. Only four pictures were released on Feb. 15 showing him smiling from his Havana hospital bed with his two daughters.

About 50 university students have spent every night this week chained to each other in the middle of a Caracas street, demanding that the government “tell the truth.”

Caracas has accused the opposition and “fascist” foreign media of spreading rumors about Chavez to destabilize the nation, which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

“We want to see Chavez recover and healthy, and we want him to be in peace, doing the treatment that needs to be done,” Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Elias Jaua said. “Those who don’t want Chavez to recover are those who use blackmail, criminal pressure, miserable pressure that we will not cede to.”

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