Bloomberg News

Chavez Suffered Complications During Cancer Surgery

December 13, 2012

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez suffered “complications” due to bleeding while undergoing a six-hour cancer surgery in Cuba Dec. 11, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said today.

Maduro, speaking on state television, said surgeons took corrective measures in time to control the bleeding. He said the president will require a “delicate and prolonged process of post-operation recovery.”

“In the last few hours, the process of recovery has evolved from stable to favorable,” Maduro said around 6 p.m. local time, eliciting cheers from the crowd at a rally in Aragua state for gubernatorial candidate Tarek El Aissami. “This leads to maintaining the diagnosis of a progressive recovery in Comandante Hugo Chavez’s situation.”

At the news from Maduro, Chavez supporters chanted “And he will live and he will live, the comandante will live!”

Chavez underwent his fourth surgery in 18 months for an undisclosed form of cancer, after telling Venezuelans they should vote for Maduro in case he’s forced to step down after 14 years in power.

Additional Treatments

“The patient is in the process of a progressive and favorable recovery of normal levels of his vital signs,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said earlier today in a nationally televised address, adding that additional treatments will be needed to fully restore the self-declared socialist leader’s health.

Maduro and Villegas didn’t provide further details on Chavez’s condition or the complications he experienced during surgery.

Internal scarring from multiple surgeries can make tumor extraction difficult and thus lead to bleeding, Ramon Baeza, an oncologist with the IRAM cancer clinic in Santiago, Chile, said in a phone interview. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can alter blood flow, Baeza said.

After multiple surgeries, patients may experience protein deficiency, which can lead to problems with scarring and a depressed immune response, Baeza said. Chavez’s medical team has to be on guard for infections, a primary cause of death among cancer patients, he said.

“Whatever they did must have been necessary, but it’s risky, complicated and the likelihood of success is very low,” said Baeza. “The future looks bad. How much time President Chavez survives depends obviously on the quality of the palliative care he receives now.”

Health, Succession

Chavez, 58, may not be well again in time to be sworn in for a third term on Jan. 10, Villegas said yesterday. Adan Chavez, the president’s brother and governor of Barinas state, said yesterday he would recover and return to Venezuela soon.

Under Venezuelan law, if Chavez steps down before his new term begins on Jan. 10, Maduro would see out the rest of the current term and then hand over power to the National Assembly president who must call for election within 30 days.

If Chavez assumes power for a new term Jan. 10 and steps down within the first four years of that period, the vice president takes over while elections are arranged within a month.

2013, Markets

Chavez first told Venezuelans he had cancer in June 2011 after undergoing surgery in Cuba to drain an abscess from his pelvic area during which he said doctors discovered a baseball- sized tumor in the same area.

The tumor was excised in a subsequent operation, Chavez said, without specifying the exact location or type of cancer.

Venezuela’s opposition alliance would probably choose Henrique Capriles Radonski as its presidential candidate should elections be called soon, provided he wins re-election as governor of Miranda state Dec. 16, Ultimas Noticias reported, citing opposition officials.

The government’s benchmark 2027 dollar bond fell 1.11 cents to 101.42 cents on the dollar today at 6 p.m. New York time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The bond’s yield rose 14 basis points, or 0.14 percentage point, to 9.07 percent.

Venezuelan dollar bonds have returned 48.66 percent in 2012, the second-biggest return in emerging markets after the Ivory Coast, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBI Global index.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nathan Crooks in Caracas at ncrooks@bloomberg.net; Jose Orozco in Caracas at jorozco8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net


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