Chavez health hype worries Venezuelans

March 1, 2012 at 4:00 PM
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CARACAS, Venezuela, March 1 (UPI) -- When it comes to the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, seeing no longer is believing.

Venezuelans say they are worried they are being denied the whole truth about the state of the president's health after numerous surgical procedures, radiation, chemotherapy and all sorts of other medical treatment administered in the relative seclusion of Cuba.

In the latest update, Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua said surgeons in Cuba have completely removed a troublesome lesion from Chavez's pelvis and the president is recovering well.

"President Chavez is in good physical condition," Jaua told the National Assembly.

"The diagnosed pelvic lesion was extracted completely along with the surrounding tissue. There were no complications relating to his local organs."

"The immediate post-operative period was clinically stable, without systemic complications. He is recovering correctly," Jaua said, prompting cheers from the president's supporters in the legislature.

Chavez, 57, himself reinforced the message in a telephone call to state television VTV, in which he said he had walked after the surgery.

"I am well and I am recovering rapidly," Chavez said, adding he was fed well by his Cuban hosts and well looked after at the elite Center for Medical-Surgical Investigations, reputed to be Havana's most modern hospital.

The medical facility is close to the homes of Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro, 85, and President Raul Castro, 80.

Opposition critics say they want more detailed information about Chavez's health and his medical treatment after repeated conflicting reports since he first reported the cancer diagnosis last year.

Neither Chavez nor his senior aides have given a full account of the illness, the kind of cancer or the full range of treatment applied.

In October last year, Chavez announced he was cancer-free and fully recovered and reaffirmed he would contest the presidential election Oct. 7 for a new six-year term after 13 years in office.

But on Feb. 21 Chavez announced he needed new surgery, prompting critics to question the stability of his health.

Questions over the president's health coincide with rising expectations about the opposition's joint candidate Henrique Capriles, 39, who is aiming to whittle down Chavez's approval rating. Most polls indicate Chavez still holds half of Venezuela's electorate and has the armed forces behind him.

However, faced with possible defeat, critics say the ruling United Socialist Party may consider Chavez a liability.

The Democratic Unity alliance led by Capriles has advanced the candidate's centrist position in contrast to Chavez's populist style, which is blamed for oil-rich Venezuela's economic troubles.

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