Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in a “stable situation” in a Cuban hospital receiving treatment due to a severe respiratory infection, his government said on Monday.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas provided the update, saying the government is in “permanent contact” with Mr. Chavez’s medical team and relatives who are with him in Havana where he underwent surgery for cancer. His report came as other government officials reiterated their stance that the president need not be sworn in for a new term as scheduled this Thursday and could instead have his inauguration at a later date.

“The president is in a stable situation in relation with that described in the most recent report,” Villegas said, reading a statement on television. “His treatment is being applied constantly and rigorously, and the patient is assimilating it.”

Villegas didn’t give details about the treatment, which the government says is for a “respiratory deficiency.” Independent medical experts say that description suggests Chavez may be breathing with the aid of a ventilator, but also say that is not necessarily the case based on the vague account given.

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church on Monday criticized the government for failing to provide more details about Mr. Chavez’s condition nearly a month after his operation.

“The government hasn’t told the nation all of the truth,” said Bishop Diego Padron, president of the Venezuelan Bishops Conference.

Catholic leaders also said that conflicting stances by the government and opposition ahead of Mr. Chavez’s scheduled swearing-in make for a potentially dangerous and violent situation.

“The nation’s political and social stability is at serious risk,” Bishop Padron said, reading a statement from the bishops’ conference.

The president hasn’t spoken publicly since before the December 11 surgery.

Government officials have called Chavez’s condition delicate but haven’t given details of his complications.

The Venezuelan Constitution says the presidential oath should be taken before parliamentarians in the National Assembly on January 10, this Thursday. It says the president may also take the oath before the Supreme Court if he’s unable to be sworn in before the assembly.

Some opposition leaders have argued that Mr. Chavez’s allies would violate the constitution if they try to put off the inauguration.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro has called the swearing-in a “formality” and said the opposition is erroneously interpreting the constitution.


Maduro stands in for Chavez before parliamentJanuary 16, 2013

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