Chavez has respiratory infection

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 18 2012 10:20 p.m. MST

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has a respiratory infection after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba and must have "complete rest" for the next few days, the government said Tuesday.

The socialist leader is in stable condition after being diagnosed with the respiratory infection on Monday, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said on television, reading a government statement.

"It has been controlled," Villegas said. "In the opinion of the doctors, this type of ailment is one of the consequences that appear with the greatest frequency in patients who have undergone complicated surgeries."

The infection appeared a week after a six-hour operation that the government has said involved complications.

"The medical team has said that President Chavez should have complete rest in the coming days and receive ... the prescribed medical treatment, with the purpose of maintaining the stability of his vital signs that he currently enjoys," Villegas said.

Concluding the statement, he said: "Long live Chavez!"

Tuesday's announcement came amid uncertainty and concern over the 58-year-old president's health.

Chavez hasn't spoken publicly since his Dec. 11 surgery for an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer. It was his fourth cancer-related operation since June 2011.

Medical experts say that it's common for patients who have undergone major surgeries to suffer respiratory infections and that how a patient fares can vary widely from a quick recovery in a couple of days to a fight for life on a respirator.

Five experts consulted by The Associated Press agreed that it's hard to predict what Chavez's likely scenario might be given the available information.

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