Hugo Chavez Worsens As Venezuela Prepares For Life After His Death

Nathan Francis

Hugo Chavez's condition has reportedly worsened as the Venezuelan leader acquired a new respiratory infection after being treated for cancer in Cuba, the nation's government announced Monday.

The situation has caused unrest in Venezuela and uncertainty as to what would happen after he dies.

Venezuela has been tightly guarded with information on Hugo Chavez, leading some to speculate that the world leader had already died. An official from Panama said last week that Chavez had indeed died, and that the Venezuelan government was trying to hide that fact form the world.

Gillermo Cochez, a politician from Panama, told CNNChile that Chavez was declared brain dead while receiving treatment in Cuba and returned to Venezeula in that condition. Cochez appeared to be hazy on details, saying only that his information came from a source within the Venezuelan government.

"I challenge the Venezuelan government to prove me wrong, and to present President Chavez so that it's known whether what I say is the truth or a lie," Cochez said, in a tone that sounds more like he is speaking provocatively or fishing for information.

That story was strongly disputed, with The Atlantic Wire pointing out that Cochez seemed to be the only one with the information.

The latest update from Venezuela said that Hugo Chavez had worsened.

"Today there is a worsening of his respiratory function. Related to his depressed immune system, there is now a new, severe infection," said Information Minister Ernesto Villegas in an official statement of the 58-year-old Chavez's health. "The president has been receiving high-impact chemotherapy, along with other complementary treatments ... his general condition continues to be very delicate."

Hugo Chavez has been out of the public's sight since dearly December, when he traveled to Havana for treatment. It was his fourth cancer surgery since doctors first found the disease in his pelvic region in 2011.

Word that Hugo Chavez has worsened has already stirred up unrest in Venezuela. Villaregas used the official announcement to lash out at "the corrupt Venezuelan right" for what he said was a psychological war that would bring violence as a pretext for foreign intervention.

Villeregas called on supporters of Chavez to be "on a war footing," The Associated Press reported.

After Chavez was too ill to be sworn in on January 10, his opposition argued that the government should have held a snap election. Campaigning has already begun for an expected election should Chavez die soon, with his challenger in the election held last October, Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles, expected to again vie for the presidency.

There is speculation that Hugo Chavez has worsened even more than the Venezuelan government has let on. Many believe that his cancer has spread to his lungs and is no longer responding to treatment.