Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez entered a hospital in Caracas to undergo emergency treatment for kidney failure, El Nuevo Herald newspaper reported, citing sources close to the situation it didn’t name.
Chavez, who has been receiving chemotherapy for an undisclosed form of cancer, checked into the military hospital in the capital on Sept. 27, according to the newspaper, which is the Spanish-language sister of the Miami Herald. The Venezuelan leader is likely to undergo dialysis and may be transferred to a private hospital to receive better treatment, the report said.
A press official for Chavez who is not authorized to speak publicly declined to comment. Communications Minister Andres Izarra, while not confirming or denying the report, said in a posting on Twitter that the Nuevo Herald journalists who wrote the story should be checked into a “lunatic asylum.”
The former paratrooper, who had a baseball-sized tumour removed by doctors in Cuba in June, told state television last week he had finished chemotherapy in Cuba and was anticipating a “full recovery.” Chavez has been preparing for presidential elections scheduled for October of next year, relying on social media site Twitter and calling into state media as he seeks to extend his 12-year rule until 2019.
Since being diagnosed with cancer, Chavez, 57, has reduced public appearances and suspended his “Alo Presidente” Sunday talk show, on which he sometimes spoke for more than eight hours. Venezuela and Iran last week agreed to postpone a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said in comments carried by state television.
Chavez told state television last month that cancer has been like a rebirth. He said he had ignored the pain he began feeling at the end of last year because he wanted to celebrate Venezuela’s bicentennial and attend a summit of Latin American leaders before receiving medical care.
Chavez has ruled South America’s largest oil-producing country since 1999, ending a 40-year two-party political system and overcoming an attempted coup in 2002. Inspired by Fidel Castro, the father of the Cuban revolution, Chavez has been an outspoken critic of U.S. policies. During a 2006 speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Chavez said that the podium still smelled like sulphur a day after President George W. Bush spoke there, calling Bush the “devil.’”
Chavez was re-elected in 2006, to a six-year term, with more than 60% of the vote. The following year a referendum to solidify socialism by changing the nation’s constitution narrowly lost. Earlier this month Chavez ordered the nationalization of the gold industry and gave companies 90 days to form joint ventures with the state as he seeks to boost control over the nation’s metals producers. The government will hold at least 55% of any joint ventures, according to a decree in the Official Gazette. The decree sets a royalty rate of 10% to 13% and said that all Venezuelan gold production will be sold to the state.