Senior aides and relatives say Hugo Chavez 'battling for his life'Friday 01 March 2013 20.21
Senior aides and relatives of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez have countered a crescendo of rumors that the socialist president may be dead from cancer, saying he was still battling for his life.
"There he is, continuing his fight, his battle, and we are sure of victory!" his older brother Adan Chavez, the governor of Barinas state, told cheering supporters.
Speculation about Mr Chavez, 58, hit fever pitch this week, fed in part by assertions from Panama's former ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Guillermo Cochez, that the Venezuelan leader had died.
"The launching of absurd and bizarre rumors by the right wing simply discredits them and isolates them further from the people," Chavez's son-in-law Jorge Arreaza, who is also the country's science minister, said on Twitter.
Apart from one set of photos showing Mr Chavez lying in a hospital bed, he has not been seen nor heard from in public since 11 December cancer surgery in Cuba, his fourth such operation.
The president made a surprise pre-dawn return to a military hospital in Caracas last week, with none of the fanfare that had accompanied his previous homecomings after treatment.