01/02/13 - UPI.com - Chavez said in coma; Maduro: Ignore rumors
CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is
in an induced coma and on life support in a Havana hospital, sources told
Spanish newspaper ABC.
At the same time, Vice President Nicolas Maduro urged Venezuelans not
to believe rumors about Chavez's health. He told Venezuelan broadcaster
Telesur Chavez was "aware of the complex and delicate situation he is
going through" and said Chavez had "the same strength as always" when
Maduro visited him the past few days.
Maduro said Chavez squeezed his left hand "strongly" before Maduro left
the hospital room.
Maduro, his wife, Attorney General Cilia Flores, and Chavez family members
arrived in Havana Saturday.
Maduro, 50, told the broadcaster in the recorded interview broadcast
Tuesday night Chavez told him to return to Caracas, the capital, Wednesday
"to report the truth" about the 58-year-old president's condition, which
he said the government has done "and will continue to do."
He didn't say what the truth was.
Sources told ABC Chavez was breathing through mechanical ventilation and
being fed intravenously and rectally, and Russian doctors treating him
said his kidneys were failing.
The doctors were considering ending the life support, the newspaper said.
Maduro and other Venezuelan officials have referred only to Cuban doctors
ABC is considered a newspaper of record in Spain, along with El Pais and
El Mundo, although it is known for generally supporting conservative
political views. Chavez considers himself a socialist aligned with the
communist governments of Fidel and Raul Castro in Cuba.
Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said earlier Tuesday
Chavez congratulated the Cuban people on the 54th anniversary of Fidel
Castro's Jan. 1, 1959, ouster of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Chavez, who hasn't been seen in public since his fourth cancer-related
surgery Dec. 11, suffered "new complications" after a respiratory
infection and was in "delicate" health, Maduro said in a separate TV
broadcast from Havana Sunday night.
Chavez declared himself fully recovered from the unspecified cancer July
9, 2012, three months before an October election in which he sought
another six-year term. He warned if an opposition candidate wins the
presidency, it would mean an end to social reforms and national civil war.
Chavez won his fourth term Oct. 7, defeating center-right opposition
candidate Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, one of the country's
most populous states, which includes part of Caracas.
Before going to Cuba for his latest surgery, Chavez designated Maduro as
his successor if he should prove unable to continue to lead the country.
Chavez is scheduled to be inaugurated for his third term Jan. 10.
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello has said the swearing-in
ceremony would be postponed if Chavez can't make it. But opposition
leaders say postponing the inauguration would be unconstitutional.
Government officials say the constitution makes no provision for what
happens if a president-elect cannot take office on inauguration day.
The constitution does say in the case of an "absolute absence" of the
president, elections must be held within 30 days.
A former Venezuelan defense and foreign affairs minister who served in the
1990s under President Carlos Andres Perez, before Chavez came to power,
said in a newspaper opinion piece he expected ruling party officials would
do anything to stay in power, including staging a coup if an opposition
candidate wins a future presidential election.
"They may try to flagrantly violate the constitution by using one of the
many legal tricks that they have used, or if not possible this way, simply
by using stark force," Fernando Ochoa Antich said in Venezuela's El
"The ethical justification is the same as always -- to preserve the
revolution, as if that word would justify all the abuses of power that the
ruling clique has submitted Venezuela to since achieving power," he wrote.
In supporting his argument, Antich quoted Cabello as saying Dec. 26
Venezuela's rulers would defend their power "with our knee on the ground,
arms on our shoulders and bayonets cocked." And he quoted Defense Minister
Diego Molero Bellavia as saying Dec. 24 the armed forces "already know
what to do -- to be fully prepared for the purposes of continuing the path
set ideologically 14 years ago by the leader of the Bolivarian
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