Venezuela govt, military hold talks as Chavez worsens

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela's top civilian and military officials met at the presidential palace on Tuesday after the government announced that cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez had taken a turn for the worse, according to state-run television.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, began talks with several ministers, military officers and some 20 governors from the ruling party, VTV reported.

The meeting was being held to "define strategies regarding various projects for the development of our country, for the development of the entire Venezuelan population," a VTV journalist said.

Mr Chavez's breathing problems have reportedly worsened and his health is in a "very delicate" state as he struggles with chemotherapy treatment, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said, according to Bloomberg.

He has "severe" respiratory infection, his second this year, and is receiving chemotherapy that has had a "strong impact" on the 58-year-old president, Mr Villegas said in a national address yesterday.

The infection is the latest setback for Mr Chavez, who has undergone four cancer-related surgeries in Cuba since June 2011. Aside from photos released last month and messages posted to Mr Chavez's Twitter account on his return to Venezuela on Feb. 18, the former paratrooper hasn't been seen in public since traveling to Havana for surgery Dec. 10.

Under Venezuela's constitution, if Mr Chavez dies or steps down an election must be held within 30 days. Mr Chavez last year proclaimed himself healthy and ran a successful re-election campaign 14 years after first winning the presidency.

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