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Pressure grows on Venezuela's Chavez to clear up health rumor


16:25, February 22, 2013

CARACAS, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Pressure continued to mount Thursday on Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chavez to disclose his exact state of health, with political opponents demanding more information.

Chavez, who was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011, returned to Venezuela in the predawn hours Monday after more than two months in Cuba recovering from surgery, and was immediately admitted to Caracas' military hospital.

He announced his return via Twitter, but has not been heard from since, nor has any information been released on his recovery process.

A group of Venezuelan university students held a demonstration Thursday to demand the government clarify whether Chavez is able to continue serving as president.

The same students last Monday protested outside Cuba's Embassy in Caracas to denounce the alleged interference of Cuba in Venezuela's politics.

"Our demand is for the president to appear in public and for the people to be informed about his situation, whether he has the necessary physical condition to assume the presidency," said Jose Vicente Garcia, the students' spokesman.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other high-ranking officials "don't want to show him because they want to stay in power without going through elections," he said.

According to Venezuelan law, if the president becomes incapacitated, elections must be held in 30 days.

Also on Thursday, the spokesmen for the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable called for a rally Saturday.

At a press conference, opposition lawmaker Richard Blanco and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma called on followers to attend the rally to protest against government measures announced while Chavez was abroad.

The measures included a 30-percent devaluation of the currency, from 4.3 Venezuelan bolivars to the U.S. dollar to 6.3 bolivars to the dollar.

The opposition plans to raise other demands, including the release of what it calls political prisoners such as Ivan Simonovis, a former commissar who took part in a 2002 coup against Chavez, and former judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, allegedly freeing a businessman accused of corruption.

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