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Venezuela's Chavez 'stable' in hospital, son-in-law says

AFP

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaking during a press conference in Caracas on Oct. 9.

Updated at 5:15 a.m. ET: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in stable condition and spent Monday with his daughters, the cancer-stricken leader's son-in law-said in an appeal for supporters to ignore rumors about his condition.

Chavez has not been seen in public nor heard from in more than three weeks. The vice president said on Sunday that the 58-year-old was suffering a third set of complications after surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11, his fourth operation in 18 months.

"President Chavez spent the day quietly and stable, together with his daughters," his son-in-law, Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, wrote on Twitter from Havana, where the family has been at the president's bedside. 

Arreaza urged his countrymen not to "believe in ill-intentioned rumors" about the president's health.

On New Year's Eve, a major party in Caracas was quickly turned into a more somber gathering. Jacqueline Faría, head of the Capital District governing Caracas, canceled a free concert, calling instead for Venezuelans to "unite in prayer" for Chavez and to include his "prompt recovery" among their wishes for 2013.



On Monday afternoon, Venezuela state television began airing a live Catholic mass for Chavez that was being held at the Palacio de Miraflores, the building that houses presidential work offices. Meantime, the Ministry of Communications was organizing a massive prayer meeting at San Francisco Church at 5 p.m. (4:30 p.m. ET) and other Chavez supporters were planning a political rally at 6 p.m. at Plaza Bolivar.

On Sunday night, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro delivered a somber address to the nation from Havana, Cuba, where Chavez, 58, remains hospitalized after his fourth operation for an undisclosed form of cancer.

Maduro, flanked by one of Chavez’s daughters, Rosa Virginia, and her husband, Arreaza, read a prepared statement revealing that the Venezuelan president was now suffering "new complications" stemming from a respiratory infection he contracted after an operation on Dec. 11.

Archival video: Venezuela's controversial president Hugo Chavez -- who makes no secret of his dislike for the US -- was re-elected to an unprecedented third term, fending off a serious challenge to win decisively, 54 to 45 percent. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports from Caracas. October, 2012.

These problems developed on top of profuse bleeding Chavez experienced during the six-hour surgery in Havana. Chavez has been battling cancer for the past 18 months — flying to Cuba for surgery as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Maduro indicated that Chavez was conscious and able to speak, dispelling rumors circulating earlier in the day that claimed Chavez was only breathing with the help of a respirator and close to death.

Sept. 20: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took his verbal battle with the United States to the floor of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, calling President Bush "the devil." NBC's David Gregory reports.

"Just a few minutes ago we were with President Chavez," said Maduro. "We greeted each other and he himself talked about these complications."

Again Sunday evening, Maduro described Chavez’s condition as "delicate" and with "risks" while warning the nation to prepare for difficult times. Chavez has not been seen since his surgery three weeks ago and no additional information on his condition has appeared in Cuba’s state-run media.

"We trust that the avalanche of love and solidarity with Comandante Chavez, together with his immense will to live and the care of the best medical specialists, will help our president win this new battle," Maduro said.

For the moment, Maduro remains in Havana and said he was spending time with Chavez's medical team and relatives.

NBC News' Mary Murray and Reuters contributed to this report.

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