Venezuela's Chavez suffers new post-surgery complications

Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is suffering more complications linked to a respiratory infection that hit him after his fourth cancer operation in Cuba, his vice president said in a sombre broadcast on Sunday.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro flew to Cuba to visit Chavez in the hospital as supporters' fears grew for the ailing 58-year-old socialist leader, who has not been seen in public nor heard from in three weeks.

Chavez had already suffered unexpected bleeding caused by the six-hour operation on December 11 for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvic area. Officials said doctors then had to fight a respiratory infection.

"Just a few minutes ago we were with President Chavez. He greeted us and he himself talked about these complications," Maduro said in the broadcast, adding that the third set of complications arose because of the respiratory infection.

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

Maduro, flanked by his wife Attorney-General Cilia Flores, Chavez's daughter Rosa Virginia and her husband, Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, said he would remain in Havana while Chavez's condition evolved.

He said Chavez's condition remained "delicate" - a term he has used since the day after the surgery, when he warned Venezuelans to prepare for difficult times and urged them to keep the president in their prayers.

"We trust that the avalanche of love and solidarity with Comandante Chavez, together with his immense will to live and the care of the best medical specialists, will help our president win this new battle," Maduro said.

A senior government official in Caracas said the New Year's Eve party in the capital's central Plaza Bolivar had been cancelled. "Everyone pray for strength for our comandante to overcome this difficult moment," the official, Jacqueline Faria, added on Twitter after making the announcement.

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