Doubts over Hugo Chavez's health begin to grow
Published 27/06/2011 | 03:29
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's prolonged silence and seclusion in Cuba following surgery two weeks ago is fuelling speculation about his health.
Government officials have offered repeated assurances that Mr Chavez is recovering well in Havana, but many Venezuelans are wondering if they are getting the true story.
People across the country are accustomed to near daily speeches and television appearances by Mr Chavez, who turns 57 next month.
Yet nobody has heard him speak since he talked by telephone with Venezuelan state television on June 12, saying he was recovering from surgery two days earlier for a pelvic abscess. He said tests showed no sign of any "malignant" illness. It is not clear when he will return to Venezuela.
The paucity of information has fed a stream of speculation about the president's condition as well as outlandish gossip on both sides of Venezuela's deep political divide.