Fears about the health of the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, have re-emerged since his unexpected trip to Cuba last week for follow-up treatment after undergoing chemotherapy and surgery earlier this year.
In a letter to the national assembly, which had to approve the trip, he said the treatment would include hyperbaric oxygenation, which involves breathing pure oxygen inside a sealed chamber, to repair bone and tissue damaged during radiotherapy.
Chávez, who was diagnosed with an unspecified type of cancer 18 months ago, has not been seen in public since 15 November, when he held a meeting with ministers.
Aides have confirmed his attendance this Friday at a regional Mercosur summit in Brazil. But there is speculation that the recently re-elected president may be facing graver health problems than the government is willing to admit.
“I am under the impression that Chávez’s health has suffered a rapid decline. The effort he put into the re-election campaign has had an impact on his illness. He had to leave practically in an emergency and without the formalities and public acts that usually accompany his departure,” said Teodoro Petkoff, editor of the Venezuelan newspaper Tal Cual.