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Chavez’s Health Prevented Him From Seeing Ally Morales

Venezuelan President President Hugo Chavez has endured the “most difficult moments of his life,” according to Bolivian President Evo Morales, who didn’t get to see his close ally during a visit to Caracas.

“I wasn’t able to meet him, I was only able to meet with the head doctor and family, but my understanding is that they are very encouraged,” Morales told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Still, Morales had a bleaker assessment of his mentor’s health following the Caracas stop yesterday en route to New York.

“Sometimes diseases, illnesses are difficult to fight,” he said. “You must understand that he’s gone through the most difficult moments of his life.”

The return of Chavez to Caracas has done little to quell speculation about whether he is fit enough to govern after two months of cancer treatment in Cuba and will formally hand the reins to Vice President Nicolas Maduro.

Officials have been struggling to run affairs in South America’s biggest oil exporter, plunging the nation into a period of legal and political uncertainty.

Chavez “wants to be home when he officially gives up power in order to bestow legitimacy upon the transition,” Moody’s analysts Aaron Freedman and Maria Paula Carvajal said in an e-mailed report.

Maduro had 50 percent support compared with 36 percent for opposition Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, according to a survey by Caracas-based polling company Hinterlaces published Feb. 18 on the front-page of state-run newspaper Correo del Orinoco. The poll, whose margin of error is 2.9 percentage points, was taken Jan. 30 to Feb. 9.

Before flying to Cuba, Chavez urged Venezuelans to vote for Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader, should he die or step down because of ill health. Maduro has been running affairs in Chavez’s absence.

-- Editors: Terry Atlas, Larry Liebert

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