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President Hugo Chavez is in "good spirits" but fighting for his life as he undergoes chemotherapy in a Caracas military hospital, his vice president said late Friday.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro revealed for the first time that Chavez began chemotherapy following his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba in December and decided to continue the "intense" treatment here last week.
"He has strength that is superior to the treatments that he is receiving and he is in good spirits, battling, receiving his treatments," Maduro told reporters after a mass for Chavez in a new hospital chapel.
The leftist leader and his doctors in Cuba decided to begin chemotherapy and radiation therapy after his condition improved in January, he said. A tracheal tube had been inserted to assist his breathing due to a respiratory infection.
Maduro recalled that in February Chavez decided to return to Venezuela, telling his aides: "I am going to enter an new phase with the complementary treatments, more intense and very difficult, and I want to be in Caracas, so do everything that must be done to return to Caracas in safe conditions."
The vice president and other senior officials had earlier spent the day rebuffing rumors that Chavez may be dead or on his deathbed