On Wednesday, Miami-based El Nuevo Herald reported that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had been admitted to a military hospital on Tuesday, with possible signs of “kidney failure requiring dialysis,” according to one of two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. The first source also characterized Chavez’s condition as “quite serious,” while the second claimed he was “in bad shape” when he left the presidential palace on his way to the military hospital. Venezuelan authorities have adopted a policy of strict secrecy concerning the condition of Chavez, and the president himself called the state television early Thursday to assure the country that he was fine. ”I am doing well,” Chavez claimed. “There are a group of people who continue to launch rumors.”
Chavez had returned to Venezuela a week ago last Thursday after what he described as his fourth and ostensibly last round of chemotherapy in Cuba. Chavez also claimed that recent medial tests show he is cancer free. The president has never revealed the type of cancer he has, but he did admit that that tumor he had removed back in June was the “size of a baseball,” and that he was in intensive care following six hours of surgery. The tumor had been discovered following an initial operation on June 10th for the removal of a pelvic abscess. Doctors began to suspect the Venezuelan leader had other problems, and subsequent tests ”confirmed the presence of an abscessed tumor with the presence of cancerous cells, which made necessary a second operation that allowed for the complete extraction of the tumor,” Chavez said at the time.
Oncologists contacted by El Nuevo Herald speculate, based on the data available, that Chavez may have colon cancer. But there are doubts regarding the accuracy of information being provided, due to the fact that Chavez is determined to project an image of someone who is in recovery. Venezuela’s Information Minister Andres Izarra attempted to reinforce that image late Wednesday when he challenged the Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald’s description of Chavez’s condition. A Twitter message stated, “Who they have to admit are the reporters of Nuevo Herald, but into an asylum.”
Chavez himself echoed that statement. “I’m fine,” he said by telephone. “I’m here in my place of work and working,” adding that “I’m going to completely get out of this soon.” He then offered further reassurance to the Venezuelan people. “I would be the first…to communicate any difficulty in the process. None beyond the normal has come up,” Chavez declared.
Other reports paint a different picture. Fox Latino reported that doctors are considering transferring Chavez to the private Hospital Clinicas Caracas, where he could be better treated for renal problems described as aplastic anemia, a condition in which the body’s bone marrow fails to make enough new stem cells which develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. It can be fatal. Furthermore, Roger Noriega, former U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), citing his own sources within Venezuela, is convinced that the president is indeed in serious condition and “not improving like his doctors had hoped.” Noriega addressed the other obvious concern. “This means we should start to think, and we should prepare for a world without Hugo Chávez,” he said.
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