Hugo Chavez. Credit: AP/file.
By Girish Gupta, Special for USA TODAY
President Hugo Chávez, who returned to Venezuela Monday after undergoing medical treatment in Cuba, continues to suffer respiratory problems in his two-year battle with cancer, the Venezuelan government said in a somber statement Thursday.
"Respiratory inefficiencies that emerged in the post-operative period persist and his tendency hasn't been favorable," according to an official statement read on national TV by Information Minister Ernesto Villegas.
It was the first official communique on El Comandante's condition since his surprise return from at 2:30 a.m. local time on Monday.
The statement said Chávez, who is being treated in a Caracas military hospital, was in touch with family members and friends, his political team and his medical staff.
"The president holds firm to Christ, with the maximum desire to live," the communique said.
The flamboyant, 58-year-old Venezuelan leader, who has governed for 14 years, has yet to be sworn in for a new six-year term following his re-election in October.
The ceremony was supposed to take place on Jan. 10, but the National Assembly agreed to postpone the inauguration because of his medical condition.
The latest government statement provoked speculation that Chávez might be sworn in at his hospital bed this weekend, perhaps to relinquish power.
Photos released last week that show Chávez in his Havana hospital bed, flanked by his two daughters, have been pored over by conspiracy theorists.
Parodies have also surfaced, including one that shows Michael Jackson, who died in June 2009, reading a Venezuelan newspaper just days ago.