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Chavez Breathing Difficulty Persists as He Fights Cancer

Chavez Health Condition ‘Hasn’t Been Favorable,’ Minister Says
A woman carrying a poster of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez crosses the street in front of the military hospital where the ailing leader has been hospitalized following his return from Cuba in Caracas on Feb. 20, 2013. Photographer: Geraldo Caso/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s breathing trouble has persisted and “the tendency hasn’t been favorable,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said yesterday.

Chavez, who is being treated for an undisclosed type of cancer at a Caracas military hospital, isn’t suffering significant adverse effects from the treatment of his “base illness,” Villegas said during a speech broadcast on state television. He added that the former paratrooper was in contact with his family and political team.

“Chavez is maintaining his faith in Christ,” Villegas said. “He has the maximum will to live and discipline in his health treatment.”

Chavez returned to Caracas on Feb. 18 after more than two months of treatment in Cuba. Apart from photos released last week and Twitter messages sent by Chavez upon arrival, he hasn’t been seen or heard from since traveling to Havana for his fourth cancer surgery in 20 months. No images of his arrival or hospital stay have been released by the government.

Villegas said Feb. 15 that Chavez is suffering from a “delicate” respiratory infection that has left him speechless and requires the use of a tracheal tube.

‘Difficult Moments’

“The respiratory insufficiency that arose during the post-operative phase persists, and the tendency hasn’t been favorable,” Villegas said yesterday. “The treatment for the base illness is continuing without any significant adverse effects.”

Chavez has endured the “most difficult moments of his life,” Bolivian President Evo Morales, who didn’t get to see his close ally during a visit to Caracas this week, said Nov. 20 in New York.

The self-proclaimed socialist’s surprise return sparked speculation he’ll soon step down and hand power to his hand-picked successor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader. Maduro has been running affairs in Chavez’s absence.

Chavez’s deteriorating health triggered a 32 percent rally on Venezuelan dollar bonds over the past year as investors boosted bets he’ll be unable to complete another term, opening the door for a new regime that will introduce more market-friendly policies.

Venezuela’s bonds had the third-best performance among emerging markets in the past 12 months, after the Ivory Coast and Belize, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co’s EMBIG index.

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