Caracas: Venezuela`s Opposition on Wednesday once again criticised the secrecy surrounding the condition of President Hugo Chavez more than three weeks after his cancer surgery in Cuba.
Opposition coalition leader Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said at a news conference that the information provided by government officials "continues to be insufficient".
Chavez has not been seen or heard from since the December 11 surgery with Vice-President Nicolas Maduro yesterday saying that the President`s condition remained "delicate" due to complications arising from a respiratory infection.
Maduro also urged Venezuelans to ignore rumours about Chavez`s condition.
Aveledo said the Opposition has been respectful during Chavez`s illness but that "the secrecy is the source of the rumours".
"They should tell the truth," Aveledo said, noting that Maduro had pledged to provide full reports about Chavez`s condition. He reiterated the Opposition`s call for the government to release a medical report and said all indications are that Chavez would not be able to be sworn in to begin a new term on January 10.
In the event that Chavez is unable to take office on that date, Aveledo said the Constitution is clear that the National Assembly president should then take over temporarily until a new election is held.
If Chavez dies or is unable to continue in office, the Venezuelan Constitution says a new election should be held within 30 days.
With rumours swirling that Chavez had taken a turn for the worse, Maduro had yesterday informed that he had met with the President twice and had spoken with him.
"He`s totally conscious of the complexity of his post-operative state and expressly asked us... To keep the nation informed always, always with the truth, as hard as it may be in certain circumstances," Maduro said in the pre-recorded interview in Havana, which was broadcast last night by the Caracas-based television network Telesur.
He didn`t refer to any rumours in particular, though one circulating online had described Chavez as being in a coma. Maduro said Chavez faces "a complex and delicate situation".
He mentioned that former Cuban president Fidel Castro had visited the hospital where Chavez was being treated and praised Cuba`s government effusively.
Before his operation, Chavez acknowledged he faced risks and designated Maduro as his successor, telling supporters they should vote for the vice-president if a new Presidential Election became necessary.
"Someone asked me yesterday by text message: How is the president? And I said, `With giant strength`," Maduro said. He recalled taking Chavez by the hand: "He squeezed me with gigantic strength as we talked."