Venezuela's vice president called on Friday for an end to rumors about the condition of cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez as the head of state "is battling for his health."
"End the attack against the comandante, end the rumors, enough of using a situation that is delicate for everyone to try to create destabilization," Nicolas Maduro said at a public event that was aired live on national television and radio.
He was reacting to media accounts that Chavez, now at a military hospital in Caracas and last seen in public Dec. 10, is near death.
Those stories are disseminated "through various ways and media," Maduro said, mentioning Spanish newspaper ABC and Colombian broadcaster Caracol.
The leftist head of state returned to Venezuela 11 days ago after spending more than two months in Cuba due to complications that followed a Dec. 11 cancer surgery in Havana.
Chavez, 58, has undergone four operations as well as courses of chemotherapy and radiation since he was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.
A few days before his Feb. 18 return to Caracas, the government released photos of Chavez flanked by two of his four children as he convalesced in Cuba.
The Venezuelan government says Chavez continues to rely on a tracheal tube to breathe due to the effects of a post-operative lung infection.
Chavez is in a "complex and hard stage" of his treatment, Maduro said Friday.
Denouncing the "bourgeoisie" for continual attacks on Chavez, the vice president called on the president's supporters to show "confidence, unity and revolutionary strength."
In office since 1999, Chavez was re-elected last October and is due to serve until January 2019.
Venezuela's Supreme Court said Chavez could miss the scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration and be sworn-in later and that Maduro could continue as acting head of state pending the president's recovery.