Venezuelan minister of information Ernesto Villegas announced on Monday night that President Hugo Chávez has contracted “a new and severe infection” in addition to and existing respiratory complaint that has him breathing through a tracheal tube.
“His situation remains very delicate”, the cabinet minister continued in a speech delivered over state television network VTV.
It has been two weeks since Mr Chávez made the headlines with his returned from Cuba, despite still not having appeared in public since the tenth of December last year.
The most recent proof of life from the ailing president were four photographs taken from his hospital bed in Cuba on the fifteenth of February, in one of which he was seen reading a copy of socialist Cuban newspaper Granma from the day before.
“The Cubans kicked him out of Havana because they don’t want him to die over there”, said Darwin Escalora speaking from Altamira, an opposition stronghold in eastern Caracas.
This announcement of Mr Chávez’s state of health comes after a turbulent week in Caracas. Last week saw a commemorative rally to mark an anniversary of the Caracazo riots, which saw over 3,000 deaths in the capital, at which acting-president Nicholas Maduro spoke out passionately against those who claimed Mr Chávez was already dead.
On Sunday, opposition protestors took to the streets to demand nothing more than definitive proof of life from the absent leader. “We have spent two months in doubt”, said José Luis at the march, “as long as they say Chávez is still alive, they can remain in power indefinitely. All we want is proof”.
If Chávez should die, elections will be held within 30 days. Local polling organisation Hinterlaces said that acting president Nicholas Maduro would defeat likely challenger Henrique Capriles, who was defeated by Chávez in last year’s October election, in a fresh bid for the presidency.