Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Venezuela releases first photos of cancer-stricken Hugo Chavez

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez smiles in between his daughters, Rosa Virginia, right, and Maria while recovering from cancer surgery in Havana in this photograph released by the Ministry of Information on Feb. 15, 2013. Venezuela's government published the first pictures of cancer-stricken Chavez since his operation in Cuba more than two months ago, showing him smiling while lying in bed reading a newspaper, flanked by his two daughters. The 58-year-old socialist leader had not been seen in public since the Dec. 11 surgery, his fourth operation in less than 18 months. The government said the photos were taken in Havana on Feb. 14, 2013


Venezuela published the first photos of cancer-stricken Hugo Chavez since his surgery in Havana more than two months ago, and said the socialist President was breathing through a tracheal tube and struggling to speak.

The pictures showed the 58-year-old, his face looking swollen but smiling, lying down in a hospital bed and flanked by his two daughters. In one, they were reading Thursday's edition of the Cuban state newspaper Granma.

The photos were shown on Friday by Mr. Chavez's son-in-law, Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, who has been travelling between Havana and Caracas to be at his bedside.

Story continues below advertisement

He said that Mr. Chavez – whose political identity is built around long-winded speeches, meandering talk shows and casual chatter with supporters – was having trouble talking.

"He doesn't have his usual voice," Mr. Arreaza told Venezuelan state television. "He has difficulty communicating verbally, but he makes himself understood. He communicates his decisions perfectly. He writes them down."

Mr. Chavez has not appeared in public, and has still not been heard from, since the operation on Dec. 11, his fourth surgery for a cancer in his pelvic region first diagnosed in mid-2011.

Neither the pictures nor the new details on his condition offer solid clues as to when he might be able to return home, or whether the disease will force him to step down.

Allies appear content to let Mr. Chavez continue governing silently from Havana indefinitely and bristle when asked about how the long the unusual arrangement could last.

The former soldier has never disclosed what type of cancer he has been treated for and, in his absence, critics have accused government officials of secrecy over his condition.

"A few days ago, the liars said they were speaking with the President. Now they say he can't talk!" opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Twitter. "They are playing around with their own people."

Story continues below advertisement

On Wednesday, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro – Mr. Chavez's preferred successor – said his boss was undergoing "tough" and "complex" alternative treatments, but did not give details.

If Mr. Chavez died or had to step aside, the authorities would have to call a new vote within 30 days. That would likely pit Mr. Maduro against Mr. Capriles, the 40-year-old who lost to Mr. Chavez in last October's election.

The normally loquacious leader's silence since the surgery has convinced many Venezuelans his extraordinary 14 years in power could be coming to an end.

His son-in-law, Mr. Arreaza, however, described a light-hearted mood around the President, who he said enjoyed receiving visitors in his hospital room where he listened to music from his rural boyhood home in Venezuela's central plains.

"It's a party," Mr. Arreaza told state TV.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at