Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in an induced coma and being kept alive by life support following complications during cancer surgery, a British daily said Wednesday.
Sources at the hospital in Cuba where Chavez is being treated told a Spanish newspaper that the president was showing "very weak" vital signs, and that doctors could decide to switch off the machines "at any moment", the Daily Mail reported.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the ailing president's condition remains "delicate" weeks after his cancer surgery.
He did not provide details and told Venezuelans to ignore speculation about Chavez's health.
"He's totally conscious of the complexity of his post-operative state and he expressly asked us... to keep the nation informed always, always with the truth, as hard as it may be in certain circumstances," Maduro was quoted as saying.
Chavez has not been seen or heard from since the December 11 operation, and officials have reported a series of ups and downs in his recovery.
Maduro did not refer to any rumours in particular, though one of them has described Chavez as being in a coma.
He said Chavez faces "a complex and delicate situation". But also said that when he talked with the president and looked at his face, Chavez seemed to have "the same strength as always".
Chavez has been fighting an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer since June 2011. He has declined to reveal the precise location of the tumours that have been surgically removed.
The president announced December 8, two months after winning the re-election, that his cancer had come back despite previous surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Chavez is scheduled to be sworn in January 10 for his new term in office.
Country on edge amid rumours
Caracas: Supporters and opponents of President Hugo Chavez alike nervously welcomed the new year Tuesday, left on edge by shifting signals from the government about the leader's condition.
Speculation has grown since vice president Nicolas Maduro announced Chavez's latest medical troubles, which were a sharp shift from his remark nearly a week earlier that the president had been up and walking.
Political opponents of Chavez have complained that the government hasn't told the country nearly enough about his health.
In their online messages, many Chavez opponents criticised a dearth of information provided by Maduro, accusing him of withholding key details. Opposition politicians have demanded that the government provide the country with a full medical report. -- AP