Hugo Chavez has been undergoing chemotherapy since returning to Venezuela, his deputy has revealed.
The Venezuelan president chose to come home from Cuba to begin a new, "tougher and more intense" phase of his cancer treatment, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday.
According to Maduro, Chavez has now sufficiently improved after his operation to remove tumors in December that he is strong enough to undergo chemotherapy.
"He has strength that is superior to the treatments that he is receiving and he is in good spirits, battling," Agence France-Presse quoted Maduro as saying.
Maduro hit out at any "rumor-mongers" and "destabilizers" who say otherwise, according to Reuters.
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Speculation abounds that Chavez's condition may be far worse than the government has so far let on. Maduro himself admitted this week that the president is "battling for his life."
His opponents have repeatedly demanded clearer information on Chavez's health. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Friday accused the government of outright deception, tweeting: "We'll see how they explain to the country in the coming days all the lies that they've told about the president's situation."
A group of student protesters have even chained themselves together in a street in Caracas to demand that Maduro "tell the truth" about Chavez, the BBC reported.
Maduro, Chavez's designated successor and current stand-in, maintains that the president is still directing senior ministers from his hospital bed, despite the tracheal tube that prevents him from speaking.
"You know that President Chavez is very creative and his hands won't be tied when it comes to communicating orders, guidelines and concerns," the vice president said.
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