The Venezuelan government has released photographs of ailing President Hugo Chávez, who has not made a public appearance since he left for Cuba in December.
According to Venezuela's El Universal, Chávez, 58, is breathing with the help of a "tracheal cannula," or as El Nacional reports, a kind of tube inserted during a tracheotomy to help a patient breathe.
The pictures do not show Chávez with a breathing tube. Instead, they show him smiling and reading Cuba's official communist newspaper Granma along with his two daughters. On the cover of Granma is an article that appeared in the Feb. 14th edition of the paper.
As we've told you, Chávez is in Cuba to receive treatment for an unknown kind of cancer. Last year, he won reelection easily after a bruising campaign, but he missed his inauguration.
El Universal reports the pictures were the first of Chávez during his 68-day absence. The communications minister Ernesto Villegas said in a statement that Chávez suffered a respiratory infection following a surgery. It was controlled, he said according to El Universal, but his breathing is still insufficient.
"Given the circumstance, which is being treated, commander Chávez is breathing with help from a tube, which makes it difficult for him to talk," Villegas said.