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Chavez’s Health Called Favorable, Infection Controlled

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez waves a Venezuelan flag while speaking to supporters after receiving news of his reelection in Caracas on Oct. 7, 2012. Photographer: Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s health has been favorable in the past days and the respiratory infection he suffered following cancer surgery in Cuba last month is under control, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said.

While Chavez is conscious, he continues to receive “specific measures” to aid with breathing problems caused by the lung infection, Villegas said yesterday on state television while reading from a statement.

“In spite of his delicate state of health following a complex operation Dec. 11, in the last few days his general clinical evolution has been favorable,” Villegas said. “The president is conscious, in communication with his family, with his political team and his medical team treating him and has remained on top of information of interest.”

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took a symbolic oath in Caracas Jan. 10 in place of Chavez, whose 18-month battle with cancer prevented him from attending his own inauguration to a third six-year term. The self-declared socialist hasn’t been seen or heard from since alighting from a plane in Havana Dec. 10 to undergo his fourth surgery since June 2011. His older brother Adan has denied he’s in a coma as speculation mounts that his health is deteriorating.

Venezuelan government bonds returned 47 percent in the past year, the most in emerging markets after Ivory Coast, as investors bet that Chavez’s health will force elections and a new government that could introduce more market-friendly policies.

Swearing In

Yields on Venezuela’s benchmark 9.25 percent dollar-denominated bonds due in 2027 rose 8 basis points, or 0.08 percentage point, to 9.39 percent at 3:08 p.m. in Caracas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The price fell 0.63 cents to 98.88 cents on the dollar.

The Supreme Court Jan. 9 endorsed the government line that Chavez’s swearing-in can be delayed until he recovers, saying that any such ceremony is a mere formality. The ruling means Chavez’s handpicked successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, will continue to run affairs on his behalf in South America’s biggest oil exporter for the foreseeable future.

Constitutional Dispute

The opposition has described the supreme court ruling as a violation of the constitution. They argue that Chavez should be declared temporarily absent and that National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello should become caretaker president while the former tank commander recovers.

Maduro, Cabello, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, and Attorney General Cilia Flores, who are currently in Cuba to evaluate Chavez’s health, today met with Cuban President Raul Castro and his brother Fidel, state newspaper Granma reported.

Maduro thanked the Castros and the Cuban medical team for the “sterling attention” they’ve given Chavez while he recovers in Cuba, according to Granma.

Adan Chavez, who is also governor of Barinas state, denied that the president was in a coma and that his family was considering disconnecting life-support machines, according to a statement published on the Barinas state government’s website.

“We know this is part of a dirty war by the necrophiliac opposition in this country,” Adan said, according to the statement dated Jan. 11.

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