Chavez breathing woes worsen: govt

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is suffering from a "new and severe" infection that has worsened his breathing as he undergoes intensive chemotherapy, the government said late Monday.

The announcement came two weeks after Chavez, 58, checked into a Caracas military hospital after two months of treatment in Cuba, where he underwent his fourth round of cancer surgery since June 2011.

"Currently, he has a new, and severe infection," Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in a statement read from the hospital, adding that there was a "worsening of respiratory function."

Villegas reiterated that Chavez was undergoing "intensive chemotherapy, as well as complementary treatments" and that his "condition continues to be very delicate."

The government revealed for the first time on Friday that Chavez began receiving a tough new round of chemotherapy in Cuba after a respiratory infection had improved in January and decided to continue the treatment in Caracas.

The firebrand leader stealthily returned to the capital on February 18, with a message on his Twitter account sent in the dead of night.

Chavez has not come out or spoken in public in almost three months, fueling speculation about his health that has angered his government.

The government has given mixed messages about his condition, saying last week that he was still suffering from respiratory problems before declaring the next day that he had presided over a five-meeting with aides.

Then Vice President Nicolas Maduro, his chosen successor, disclosed the chemotherapy treatment late Friday, before saying the next day that Chavez was still sending instructions about political and economic policies.

Hundreds of people joined an opposition-led march Sunday demanding that the government reveal more details about the condition of the president of this South American nation which sits atop the world's largest proven oil reserves.