Caracas: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in a "stable situation" in a Cuban hospital receiving treatment due to a severe respiratory infection, his government has said.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas provided the update, saying the government is in "permanent contact" with Chavez`s medical team and relatives who are with him in Havana where he underwent surgery for cancer.
His report came as other government officials reiterated their stance that the president need not be sworn in for a new term as scheduled this Thursday and could instead have his inauguration at a later date.
"The president is in a stable situation in relation with that described in the most recent report," Villegas said, reading a statement on television. "His treatment is being applied constantly and rigorously, and the patient is assimilating it."
Villegas didn`t give details about the treatment, which the government says is for a "respiratory deficiency."
Independent medical experts say that description suggests Chavez may be breathing with the aid of a ventilator, but also say that is not necessarily the case based on the vague account given.
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church yesterday criticized the government for failing to provide more details about Chavez`s condition nearly a month after his operation.
"The government hasn`t told the nation all of the truth," said Bishop Diego Padron, president of the Venezuelan Bishops Conference.
Catholic leaders also said that conflicting stances by the government and opposition ahead of Chavez`s scheduled swearing-in make for a potentially dangerous and violent situation.
"The nation`s political and social stability is at serious risk," Padron said, reading a statement from the bishops` conference.
Chavez describes himself as Christian but has clashed repeatedly with some Catholic leaders, who have accused the president in recent years of becoming increasingly authoritarian.
The leftist president hasn`t spoken publicly since before the December 11 surgery.
Government officials have called Chavez`s condition delicate but haven`t given details of his complications.
The Venezuelan Constitution says the presidential oath should be taken before lawmakers in the National Assembly on January 10. It says the president may also take the oath before the Supreme Court if he`s unable to be sworn in before the assembly.