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Venezuela's President Chavez battling 'severe' lung infection

Venezuela's government says President Hugo Chavez is being treated for a respiratory deficiency after complications from a severe lung infection. Chavez has been struggling to recover from cancer surgery in Cuba.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is still suffering from a lung infection that has troubled his breathing as he battles to recover from a Dec. 11 cancer surgery, the government said late on Thursday.

"Comandante Chavez has faced complications as a result of a severe lung infection," Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in the latest official update on the president's condition.

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Chavez battling lung infection

The 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen in public for more than three weeks. He is in a delicate condition after his fourth operation in 18 months for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvic area.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro had earlier returned to Venezuela on Thursday after visiting Chavez in the hospital in Cuba. With rumors circulating about the president being close to death, Venezuela's opposition has demanded more information from the government about his health.

Chavez, who has served as Venezuela's president since 1999, is set to be sworn in for his newest term on Jan. 10. However, if he were to step aside or die, the constitution states that new elections would be held within 30 days.

hc/lw (Reuters, AFP)

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