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Chavez Allies Deny Death Speculation Amid 10-Day TV Absence

Venezuelan government officials dismissed speculation that President Hugo Chavez may have died after the leader disappeared from television screens for 10 days following a trip to Cuba for cancer treatment.

Information Minister Andres Izarra, writing on Twitter yesterday, denied the rumors and said opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski was the “political fatality” ahead of October’s presidential election.

“These bitter people don’t learn, they’ve been saying for days that the commander died, while the only one without life is the mediocre 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 10 days, while his absence from television is the longest since at least November. The president hasn’t spoken publicly since an April 13 speech in Caracas, sending messages from his Twitter account instead.

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

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

Bond Returns

Venezuelan bonds returned 19.6 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.

The yield on Venezuela’s benchmark 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 fell 3 basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 11.20 percent today at 9:57 a.m. in Caracas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bond’s price rose 0.21 cents to 85.80 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!”

Planned Return

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

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 had removed a tumor from his pelvic area.

In a post published today on his website, Bocaranda said that Chavez’s trip to Cuba would last at least two weeks and that he was having trouble with his lungs and low blood pressure.

“He has been complaining about pain in the upper part of the femur from an excess of radiation treatment,” said Bocaranda. They are keeping him in Cuba “not for more radiation or chemotherapy, but to give him medication for all the pain that the various metastasis are producing and for a better quality of life.”

Chavez has taken a walk on the beach with former Cuban President and close confident Fidel Castro to “wash the radiation off with saltwater from the ocean,” Bocaranda said today.

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