The Venezuelan government plans to take legal action against the Spanish daily El Pais for publishing a photograph purportedly showing President Hugo Chavez intubated, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said.
"What the El Pais newspaper did is going to cost it big time, because we are going to sue El Pais and we are going to take the case all the way, using whatever laws can be used, be it over there in Spain or wherever," Maduro said in a televised address.
El Pais, Spain's highest-circulation daily, posted a photograph on its Web site of a man with breathing tubes wrongly identified as the ailing Chavez.
The photograph was obtained from a news agency that claimed the man in the hospital bed was Chavez, El Pais said.
"El Pais will have to pay in the courts for this offense to the people of Venezuela at such a special time in our history," Maduro said in an address marking the 14th anniversary of Chavez's taking power.
El Pais said it removed the image from its Web site and the front page of its Thursday, Jan. 24, print edition after wrongly identifying the intubated man as Chavez.
The 58-year-old Chavez has been hospitalized in Cuba since Dec. 11 after undergoing his fourth cancer surgery since June 2011.
Early morning print editions of El Pais contained a grainy photo said to have been taken "a few days ago" and showing a bald man identified as Chavez lying in the foreground with breathing tubes in his mouth.
As soon as officials in Caracas became aware of the purported photo of Chavez, Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas said the man was not the president.
Chavez, a leftist who took office in 1999, was re-elected on Oct. 7 by a comfortable margin and is to serve until 2019. EFE