Venezuela's ailing and normally voluble President Hugo Chávez is away in Cuba for cancer treatment and, barring a few Tweets, has said nothing for nine days.
But the Venezuelan government says this does not mean he is dead, according to Reuters.
More from GlobalPost: Hugo Chavez skips Cartagena leaders summit citing ill-health
The news agency said the president's unusually long silence has sparked rumors that he was in fact no longer alive. But Reuters did not say where these rumors had appeared or who had repeated them.
Chávez is seeking reelection in six month's time despite the fact that he is still undergoing cancer treatment.
On previous trips to Cuba, Chavez has made sure to remain visibile in the Venezuelan media, calling in to state television programs, publishing pictures and video of himself, according to Reuters.
This time he has done none of this. But allies have maintained that he remains alive.
Diosdado Cabello, president of the Natonal Assembly, wrote on Twitter:
"The truth is that these embittered people do not learn. They have been saying for days the Comandante has died. Here the only lifeless thing is that loser," he wrote, in reference to Henrique Capriles, an opposition challenger in this year's presidential elections.
More from GlobalPost: 3D printing: A stepping stone to new human tissue and body parts
According to the Agence France-Presse news agency, Chávez's critics have seized on the use of Twitter as an inadequate means of governing by remote.