Chavez Allies Deny Mortality Speculation Amid 10-Day TV Absence

Venezuelan government officials denied social media speculation President Hugo Chavez may have died as the leader’s 10-day absence from television screens fueled talk that his poor health may prevent him from running in October’s election.

Information Minister Andres Izarra, writing on Twitter yesterday, said opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski was the “political fatality” and that the speculation had been “denied.”

“These bitter people don’t learn, they’ve been saying for days that the commander died, while the only one without life is” Capriles, Diosdado Cabello, head of the National Assembly, wrote yesterday on his Twitter account.

Chavez missed the Summit of the Americas in Colombia and Venezuela’s Constitution Day celebrations in the past week after flying to Cuba for cancer treatments. His absence from television is the longest since at least November. Chavez hasn’t spoken publicly since a speech April 13 in Caracas, sending messages from his Twitter account instead.

The self-declared socialist, who has undergone three operations since June as part of his treatment, is seeking to recover from the cancer in time to campaign for re-election in October in a bid to extend his 13-year rule until 2019. The government hasn’t disclosed any succession plans in case Chavez isn’t healthy enough to participate in the elections.

Venezuelan bonds returned 18 percent this year, according to data compiled by JPMorgan Chase & Co., on speculation his weakened health may lead to a change in government in October and a reversal of policies that fueled inflation and drove away investment.

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The yield on Venezuela’s benchmark 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 fell 18 basis points, or 0.18 percentage point, to 11.19 percent on April 20, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bond’s price rose 1.18 cents to 85.90 cents on the dollar.

Capriles used his Twitter account to question Chavez’s absence, writing yesterday, “The country and the problems of Venezuelans can’t be resolved over Twitter!”

Chavez will return to the South American country this week after completing radiation therapy in Cuba, Cabello said April 20 on state television.

Chavez met with Science Minister Jorge Arreaza and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro in Cuba yesterday to discuss a labor law and the economy, Arreaza, who is Chavez’s son-in-law, wrote in a message on his Twitter account.

Nelson Bocaranda, a journalist who often reports on the president’s health in the absence of official statements, has said on his website that doctors this month in Cuba discovered the cancer has started to affect Chavez’s liver and kidneys. Bocaranda revealed last June that Chavez had cancer five days before the president announced doctors in Cuba had removed a tumor from his pelvic area.

Bocaranda, writing on his Twitter account yesterday, said that Chavez may return to Venezuela within 72 hours.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jose Orozco in Caracas at jorozco8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net

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