May 22, 2013
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez not in coma, brother says
Venezuela's cancer-stricken president, Hugo Chavez, is recovering in Cuba and is not in a coma as some have rumored a month after surgery, his brother, Adan Chavez, said after a visit to Havana.
The 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen or heard from since his Dec. 11 cancer surgery - his fourth such operation after the disease was detected in his pelvic area in mid-2011 - leaving Venezuela in a state of suspense.
But older brother Adan Chavez, who is governor of the family's home state of Barinas, said the president was improving daily, according to a news release on Saturday from his office.
"The head of state continues to assimilate treatment well and his recovery is advancing daily," the statement read.
"Information on social networks and in other places, saying the president is in a coma and his family are discussing the supposed disconnection of life support equipment, are totally false," it added.
Chavez missed his own inauguration for a new, six-year term last week, although Venezuela's top court ruled that he remained in power and Vice President Nicolas Maduro could deputize until there was clarity over the president's condition.
The rumours were stoked when Chavez did not send a message to Thursday's pro-government rally, the day he was supposed to be sworn in. Unlike past trips to Cuba for medical treatment, no images have been released of him.
The saga has enormous stakes for Venezuela, a nation of 29 million people with the world's largest oil reserves, as well as for the wider region. Cuba and a handful of other leftist-ruled nations depend on Chavez's economic aid.
Peruvian and Argentine Presidents Ollanta Humala and Cristina Fernandez, both friends of Chavez, visited Cuba this week. There was no sign either of them saw him.
Finishing her visit on Saturday, Fernandez said it was "inappropriate" for her to talk about Chavez's condition, which was a matter for his family. "I ask you to show a lot of respect and solidarity," she told reporters in Havana.