Venezuela denies Chavez in critical condition



Caracas: The Venezuelan government rejected reports Sunday that President Hugo Chavez is in critical condition following emergency surgery in Cuba and insisted that the firebrand leader is "recovering well."

Chavez's government said he had an operation for a pelvic abscess on June 10 and continues to mend.

"He is recovering," Information Minister Andres Izarra told AFP in the wake of reports from Miami's El Nuevo Herald which cited unnamed US intelligence sources as saying Chavez, 56, "is in critical condition -- not on the brink of death, but critical indeed."

The newspaper also said the sources refused to comment on rumors in Venezuela that Chavez could be receiving treatment for prostate cancer.

Chavez's daughter, Rosines, and his mother, Marisabel Rodriguez, were recently whisked to Cuba in an air force plane, according to the newspaper.

The Venezuelan government has not addressed details of Chavez's condition, and angry opposition lawmakers in Caracas say it is unconstitutional for the president to be governing from abroad.

But several top Venezuelan figures have dismissed the reports.

"Chavez will be around for a long time," Vice President Elias Jaua told reporters.

The president's brother, meanwhile, has told Venezuelan state media that Chavez could return to Caracas in about two weeks.

And Izarra urged his Twitter followers to not repeat rumors, saying Chavez "is recovering well from his operation."

Chavez's enemies "should stop dreaming, and his friends should stop being nervous," added Temir Porras, a senior diplomat, in a Twitter message.

Chavez himself fired off a brief Twitter message saying that his youngest daughter and three grandchildren had arrived in Cuba to visit him.

The uncharacteristic silence from someone known for his verbal omnipresence left some foes speculating that Chavez might have had plastic surgery, or might want to drum up sympathy for his illness ahead of a 2012 election in which he will seek a third term.

He had been rushed into emergency surgery after suffering sharp pain diagnosed as a pelvic abscess that required immediate surgery.

Chavez is Communist Cuba's main economic and political ally. His cut-rate oil keeps the cash-strapped and isolated Raul Castro regime afloat.

Bureau Report