The Venezuelan government has claimed that the international media are trying to destabilise the country as its president Hugo Chavez struggles to recover from cancer surgery.
The two principal figures left running the country stood shoulder to shoulder on a tour of a coffee plant, but the vice president had to deny reports of a rift with the head of the national assembly.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro said: “President Chavez is conscious of all the circumstances he’s living through, which are complex. He’s conscious of the battle he is fighting and as always he has a fighting spirit, with the strength he always has, with the energy he always has, with confidence and security. And that’s what he has told us to tell our people.”
Venezuela’s opposition, and even the United States, have expressed concern about the lack of information about the president’s health.
The Information Minister, Ernesto Villegas countered: “The Venezuelan government warns its people about the psychological war that the international media have unleashed over the Head of State’s health with the intention of destabilising the Republic of Venezuela.”
Once highly visible, Chavez has not been seen in public for three weeks. The scarcity of information has prompted unsubstantiated rumours of his death.
The official line is that Chavez has developed a severe lung infection after his fourth operation for cancer in Cuba. The 58-year-old socialist leader is supposed to be sworn-in next week after his re-election in October.