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January 1, 2013 5:54 pm
Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s president, is in a stable condition, the cancer-stricken leader’s son-in-law said in an appeal for supporters to ignore rumours about his condition.
Mr Chávez has not been seen in public nor heard from in more than three weeks. The vice-president said on Sunday that the 58-year-old was suffering a third set of complications after surgery in Cuba on December 11, his fourth operation in 18 months.
“Compatriots, DON’T believe in ill-intentioned rumours,” Jorge Arreaza, science minister, who is married to Mr Chávez’s daughter Rosa Virginia, wrote on Twitter from Havana where they have been at the former soldier’s bedside.
“President Chávez spent the day quietly and stable, together with his daughters.”
Mr Chávez has not provided details of the cancer that was first diagnosed in June 2011, leading to speculation among Venezuela’s 29m people and criticism from opposition leaders.
Officials have said he suffered unexpected bleeding as a result of the complex, six-hour operation on his pelvic area, and that doctors had to fight a respiratory infection, which then caused his latest setback on Sunday.
The government has repeatedly described Mr Chávez’s condition as “delicate”, warning Venezuelans to prepare for difficult days ahead and urging them to pray for “el Comandante”.
The main New Year’s eve party in downtown Caracas was cancelled. Instead, the information minister hosted a smaller gathering which featured musicians, speeches and prayers and was dubbed “Now More Than Ever With Chávez”.
The president’s death or resignation due to illness would upend politics in Venezuela, where his personalised brand of oil-financed socialism has made him a hero to the poor majority but a pariah to critics who call him a dictator.
His condition is being watched closely around Latin America, especially in other leftist-run nations such as Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia, which depend on subsidised fuel shipments and other Venezuelan aid for their fragile economies.
In his new year’s message, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president, said the region’s leaders were missing Mr Chávez badly.
“We feel that there has been a tremendous absence, especially for the presidents like us who are anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal,” Mr Morales said.
“We are convinced that with the great will of Bolivia’s people, all the world’s people who pray, who do rituals to Mother Earth for his health, our brother president will be there soon. This is our great wish on the last day of 2012.”
Mr Chávez is due to be sworn in again in Venezuela on January 10 after he won re-election in October. But top officials from his ruling Socialist Party, or PSUV, have suggested the ceremony could be pushed back if he were unable to return.
For the opposition, any postponement would be the latest sign that Mr Chávez is not fit to govern and that fresh elections should be held to choose his replacement.
If Mr Chávez had to step down, elections would be called within 30 days and his heir apparent, vice-president Nicolás Maduro, would be the PSUV candidate.
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