Jorge Silva / Reuters
A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez wears a mask depicting him during a rally in Caracas Feb. 27, 2013.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro suggested the chemotherapy was continuing in the government's first mention of it as among treatments that Venezuela's cancer-stricken president has received since his Dec. 11 cancer surgery in Cuba.
Maduro's offering of the most detailed rundown to date of Chavez's post-operative struggle came hours after an accusation by opposition leader Henrique Capriles that the government has repeatedly lied about Chavez's condition.
"We'll see how they explain to the country in the (coming) days all the lies they've been telling about the president's situation," Capriles, whom Chavez defeated in Oct. 7 elections, said in a tweet.
Chavez has not been seen nor heard from since going to Cuba for his fourth cancer surgery, except for a set of "proof of life" photos released Feb. 15 while he was still in Havana.
Chavez first revealed an unspecified cancer in the pelvic region in June 2011, and reported undergoing radiation treatment and chemotherapy after earlier operations.
More than two months after his latest cancer surgery, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez appears to have taken a turn for the worse. NBC's Brian Williams reports.
Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, said his boss' condition was extremely delicate over New Year's as he battled a respiratory infection that required a tracheal tube.
"In mid-January he was improving, the infection could be controlled, but he continued with problems of respiratory insufficiency. Afterward, there was a general improvement, and the doctors along with President Chavez decided to initiate complementary treatments," Maduro said.
"You know what the complementary treatments are, right? They are chemotherapy that is applied to patients after operations."
Cancer specialists couldn't be reached immediately for comment on Maduro's announcement. But oncologists have said that chemotherapy is sometimes given to slow a cancer's progression, ease symptoms and extend a patient's life.
The opposition says Chavez should either be sworn in for the new term he won in the election or declare himself incapable and call a new election. The constitution says he should have been sworn in on Jan. 10, but Venezuela's Supreme Court said it was OK to wait.
Earlier Friday, Maduro accused the Spanish newspaper ABC and Colombia's Caracol network of spreading lies about Chavez's condition.
ABC said without specifying its source that Chavez's cancer had spread to a lung. It said he had been moved to an island compound in the Caribbean.
Chavez's son-in-law, Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, said on state TV that Chavez continues "to fight hard and is in the military hospital, as peaceful as he could be, with his doctors, with his family."
Former congressman Joseph Kennedy's nonprofit Citizens Energy has given Hugo Chavez credit for contributing oil, but Chavez's anti-American rhetoric has raised eyebrows. NBC's Ron Mott reports.