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Politics

Venezuela’s Chavez suffers further health setbacks

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has suffered further complications after another cancer operation, his deputy has said. The 58-year-old's worsening health has led to speculation he might have to relinquish power.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has suffered further complications after another cancer operation, his deputy told Venezuelan state television on Sunday.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the president was suffering from complications connected with a respiratory infection that he acquired after a fourth cancer operation in Cuba.

Maduro gave the somber message after flying to Cuba to visit the leader in hospital.

Venezuela: concerns about Chavez

"Just a few minutes ago we were with President Chavez," said Maduro, currently serving as acting president. "He greeted us and he himself talked about these complications," said Maduro.

"Thanks to his physical and spiritual strength, Comandante Chavez is confronting this difficult situation."

The president, who has not been seen in public in recent weeks, has said he had a cancer in his pelvic area, although exact details have not been released.

Potential successor nominated

Chavez, who had already suffered complications from bleeding after the December 11 surgery, publicly acknowledged the risks he faced ahead of his latest journey to Cuba - designating Maduro as his successor.

Uncertainty about the president's health has raised questions about whether it will be possible for him to be sworn in on the constitutionally mandated date of January 10, having won a presidential election in October.

Amid the latest concerns, opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in the presidential vote, has called on Maduro to seek dialogue with opponents.

Chavez's socialist policies have proved divisive, with some claiming he is a dictator and others saying he has done much to improve the lives of ordinary Venezuelans. The president, who has been in power since 1999, remains a vocal critic of perceived US and European "imperialism."

rc/bk (AFP, Reuters)

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