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Ally: Venezuelan President's Health 'Very Worrying'

If Hugo Chavez should die or resign, new elections would have to be held within 30 days.
An ally of Hugo Chavez, Bolivian President Evo Morales, says the condition of the Venezuelan president is “very worrying.”

Morales said he hoped prayer would help "save the life" of Chavez, who is continuing to be treated in a hospital in Cuba following an operation for cancer on December 11.

Venezuela’s opposition has meanwhile called on the government to tell “the truth” about Chavez’s health.

Officials have said Chavez suffered complications from the surgery, his fourth operation since mid-2011. Most recently, officials said he had a respiratory infection.

But few details -- including what kind of cancer Chavez has -- have been released. The 58-year-old Socialist leader has not been seen in public since the surgery.

Morales told reporters January 2 that he had spoken with members of Chavez’s family.

“The situation for our brother, President Hugo Chavez, is very worrisome," Morales said. "Hopefully, soon he will be joining us. But his situation is very worrying. I spoke with his family. I tried to speak with the vice president, which was difficult. But hopefully, our prayers and our rites [will help] save the life of our brother President Hugo Chavez."

The Bolivian leader said the situation concerning Chavez was “very painful.”

Officials have acknowledged that Chavez may not be able to return to Venezuela to be inaugurated for a new presidential term on January 10.

In Caracas on January 2, the main opposition movement called on Vice President Nicolas Maduro, a close ally of Chavez, to take responsibility for informing the public about the president’s condition.

Ramon Aveledo, head of the Democratic Unity coalition, said the government has so far failed to provide enough information.

"Nothing excuses the government from giving the information it must give," Aveledo said. "The vice president himself has said he is committed to telling the truth, whatever that may be. Well,he should tell the truth about the president's health, because that is what will give the country the security and certainty that it needs."

Maduro, who visited Chavez in Cuba this week, said the president was aware that his medical situation was “complex.” Maduro gave no further details.

Before leaving for Cuba for the latest round of surgery, Chavez told Venezuelans that Maduro would take over if he was incapacitated. He also urged supporters to vote for Maduro if a new election must be held.

If Chavez should die or resign, new elections would have to be held within 30 days.

The Venezuelan Constitution says the presidential term must start on January 10. But it does not clearly establish what should happen if the president-elect does not take office on that day.

Chavez, the dominant figure in the politics of OPEC-member Venezuela for the past 14 years, was reelected in October.

A former lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan military, he enjoys wide support among Venezuela’s poor. This is due in part to his government’s massive spending to expand health-care and education programs, financed by income from Venezuela's oil exports.

A frequent critic of U.S. policy, Chavez is considered close to former Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro.

He has sought to forge alliances with governments viewed with suspicion by Western powers, including Iran and Belarus. His government has purchased significant quantities of Russian weapons for Venezuela's armed forces.

With reporting by Reuters, AP and AFP
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