Let Chavez receive chemo in peace: foreign minister

Venezuela's foreign minister demanded Saturday that President Hugo Chavez be allowed to recover in peace after the government revealed for the first time that the cancer-stricken leader was in chemotherapy.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Chavez, 58, was in a "battle" to recover as the socialist leader rests in a Caracas military hospital, where he checked in on February 18 after two months of treatment in Cuba.

"We want to see Chavez recover and healthy, and we want him to be in peace, doing the treatment that needs to be done," Jaua said on state-run television as he visited a school in Caracas.

"Those who don't want Chavez to recover are those who use blackmail, criminal pressure, miserable pressure that we will not cede to," he said, referring to the opposition, which accuses the government of lying about the president's health.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro disclosed for the first late Friday that Chavez began a new cycle of chemotherapy in January and decided to return to Caracas last month to continue a "more intense" phase of treatment.

Chavez was in "good spirits" but fighting for his life, Maduro said, as he rejected growing rumors about the president's health.

Chavez underwent on December 11 the fourth round of surgery since he was first diagnosed with cancer in the pelvic region June 2011. The government has never disclosed the exact nature, location and severity of the cancer.

The once omnipresent leader has not come out in public in almost three months. Only four pictures were released on February 15, showing him in his Havana hospital bed, smiling with his two daughters.