Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro
Marcelo Garcia  /  AP
In this Dec. 8 photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, left, holds up a copy of the Venezuelan national constitution as his Vice President Nicolas Maduro looks on during a televised speech at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Chavez has suffered "new complications" following his cancer surgery in Cuba, Maduro said Sunday, describing the Venezuelan leader's condition as delicate.
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updated 12/30/2012 9:43:30 PM ET 2012-12-31T02:43:30

Hugo Chavez has suffered "new complications" following his cancer surgery in Cuba, his vice president said Sunday, describing the Venezuelan leader's condition as delicate.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro spoke with a solemn expression in a televised address from Havana, saying he had spoken with Chavez and that the president sent greetings to his homeland. Maduro did not give details about the complications, which he said came amid a respiratory infection.

"Several minutes ago we were with President Chavez. We greeted each other and he himself referred to these complications," Maduro said, reading from a prepared statement. Maduro was seated alongside Chavez's eldest daughter, Rosa, and son-in-law Jorge Arreaza, as well as Attorney General Cilia Flores.

The vice president's comments suggest an increasingly difficult fight for the ailing president. The Venezuelan leader has not been seen or heard from since undergoing his fourth cancer-related surgery Dec. 11, and government officials have said he might not return in time for his scheduled Jan. 10 inauguration for a new six-year term.

"The president gave us precise instructions so that, after finishing the visit, we would tell the (Venezuelan) people about his current health condition," Maduro said. "President Chavez's state of health continues to be delicate, with complications that are being attended to, in a process not without risks."

Maduro held up a copy of a newspaper confirming that his message was recorded on Sunday.

"Thanks to his physical and spiritual strength, Comandante Chavez is facing this difficult situation," Maduro said.

Maduro said he had met various times with Chavez's medical team and relatives. He said he would remain in Havana "for the coming hours" but didn't specify how long.

Maduro, who arrived in Havana on Saturday for a sudden and unexpected trip, is the highest ranking Venezuelan official to visit Chavez since the surgery.

Before Chavez left for Cuba, he acknowledged risks in the operation and designated Maduro as his successor, telling supporters they should vote for the vice president if a new presidential election was necessary.

Chavez said his cancer had come back despite previous surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He has been fighting an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer since June 2011.

Medical experts say that it's common for patients who have undergone major surgeries to suffer respiratory infections and that how a patient fares can vary widely from a quick recovery in a couple of days to a fight for life on a respirator.

Maduro's latest update differed markedly from last Monday, when he had said he received a phone call from the president and that Chavez was up and walking.

The vice president spoke on Sunday below a picture of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, the inspiration of Chavez's leftist Bolivarian Revolution movement.

Maduro expressed faith that Chavez's "immense will to live and the care of the best medical specialists will help our president successfully fight this new battle." He concluded his message saying: "Long live Chavez."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Life of Chavez

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  1. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died March 5 at age 58, after a long battle with cancer that was shrouded in mystery and prevented him from being inaugurated for a fourth term.

    In this photo, Chavez sits in front of a painting of the country's liberation hero Simon Bolivar in the Miraflores Palace on April 30, 2002. With tensions running high after a 47-hour coup, Chavez urged the divided nation to debate its political differences in peace.

    Simon Bolivar led 19th-century movements to end Spain's colonial rule in Venezuela and throughout Latin America. (Kimberly White / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A young Hugo Chavez (center, left) poses with classmates in his hometown of Sabaneta in Barinas, in this undated photo provided by his former neighbor Flor Figueredo.

    In the rural villages of his childhood at the heart of Venezuela's great savannah or "llanos," family and friends pour out tales of a boy whose motor-mouth and popular touch - now mainstays of his rule - were evident early on. (Flor Figueredo via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Hugo Chavez is seen in an undated family photo. (Miraflores Press Office via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Hugo Chavez, bottom row, right, poses with his baseball teammates during games at the Military Academy in Caracas in March, 1972. (Miraflores Press Office via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Hugo Chavez is seen during his time as a second lieutenant at the Military Academy in Caracas in an undated photo. (Venezuelan government via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Soldiers loyal to Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez and some journalists lie in one of the entrance rooms of the presidential palace in Caracas on Feb. 4, 1992, after rebel paratroopers led by Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez attempted a coup. When the bid to overthrow Perez failed, Chavez announced his defeat in a TV appearance that made him a hero overnight.

    In 1993, Venezuela's Congress impeached Perez for diverting $17 million in public money to a secret fund. The country's top court them removed him from office and put him under house arrest. Perez died in 2010.

    Chavez later successfully ran for the office of the president, and was sworn in on Feb. 2, 1999. (Jose Cohen / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Hugo Chavez is escorted by military intelligence officers after being arrested for trying to overthrow President Carlos Andres Perez on Feb. 5, 1992. (Andres Leighton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is pictured at his cell during his period at Yare prison (1992-94), in a photo provided by Venezuela's Ministry of Information and Communication. (Ministry of Information and Communication via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Lt. Col. Hugo Chavez talks to reporters on March 26, 1994, after being freed from jail where he was imprisoned for trying to overthrow President Carlos Andres Perez. Chavez was let go after charges were dropped against him for leading the first of two attempted coups against the government of Perez who was removed from office in 1993. (Bertrand Parres / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Cuban President Fidel Castro, right, greets Hugo Chavez, upon the Venezuelan's arrival at Jose Marti Airport in Havana in December, 1994. Chavez, who had retired from the military, was the director of Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario 200, or the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement 200.

    The name of the organization refers to Simon Bolivar, who led 19th-century movements to end Spain's colonial rule in Venezuela and throughout Latin America and is a personal hero of Chavez's. (Adalberto Roque / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Hugo Chavez and his wife Marisabel wave to supporters in Caracas in July, 1998, ahead of presidential elections later in the year. (Bertrand Parres / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Former paratrooper Chavez and his wife Marisabel wave to supporters in July, 1998, in Caracas ahead of the December presidential election. Early on, polls predicted that Chavez would win the vote. (Bertrand Parres / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Chavez reaches out to supporters in Carora in western Venezuela on Dec. 2, 1998. Tipped to win the presidential elections to be held just a few days later, Chavez edges through the narrow streets punching his fist into his palm and grinning with the air of a man who smells victory.

    His crusading anti-establishment message of radical change unsettled Venezuela's traditional parties so much that they dropped their own candidates and rallied behind independent Henrique Salas in a last-ditch effort to defeat Chavez. (Kimberly White / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Chavez watches paratroopers land over the Fuerte Tiuna military base during a Feb. 4, 1999, parade to commemorate the seventh anniversary of an abortive coup he led.

    At the parade held on his third day in office, the former paratrooper called for national unity against "anarchy" and announced he was reinstating officers discharged for backing the coup. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Chavez poses with Venezuelan Major League Baseball players, left to right, Kelvim Escobar of the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets players Melvin Mora, Roger Cedeno and Edgardo Alfonso on June 9, 1999, before the Mets game against the Blue Jays at Shea Stadium in Flushing, NY. Chavez threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the beginning of the game. (Matt Campbell / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Chavez kisses the hand of a supporter in December, 1999, in Caracas as he arrives at a local meeting. (Bertrand Parres / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Chavez inspects military maneuvers on March 17, 2001, in Catilletes, 372 miles northwest of Caracas near the border with Colombia. (Egilda Gomez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Chavez tours Ground Zero in New York City on Nov. 10, 2001.

    During the same trip, Chavez told reporters that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would order production cuts so as to reverse the recent slump in oil prices. (Doug Kanter / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. National guardsmen shoot at protesters in Caracas on April 11, 2002, after a general declared that Chavez's government had "abandoned its functions" and the country was under the control of the armed forces. The attempted coup failed and Chavez was back in power after 47 hours. According to some reports, officials in the administration of President George W. Bush sanctioned the attempt to remove the left-wing president from power. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Venezuelans fill highways in Caracas to protest against Chavez's government on April 11, 2002. At least 300,000 marched through the capital, pressing ahead with an indefinite general strike as his embattled administration tried to start a dialogue with opponents and ward off economic chaos. (Kimberly White / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A soldier cheers to supporters of ousted president Chavez in an army barracks opposite Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on April 13, 2002. (Daniel Aguilar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Chavez is surrounded by supporters upon his return to the presidential palace after a coup attempt on April 14, 2002. The former paratrooper who himself once led a failed military coup, demonstrated his political survival skills as he triumphantly returned to the power. (Rodrigo Arangua / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Bolivian President Evo Morales, left, and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez wear traditional "chullos" (wool caps) while speaking to a crowd upon their arrival to Shimaota in Chapare, Bolivia, on May 26, 2006. Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba went on to sign agreements as part of the People's Trade Treaty, an alternative to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. (Aizar Raldes / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Chavez addresses the United Nations General Assembly 61st session on Sept. 20, 2006. Chavez called President George W. Bush "the devil," and urged Americans to read Noam Chomsky's book, "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance."

    "The hegemonistic pretentions of the American empire are placing at risk the very existence of the human species," he said during the speech.

    Chavez, a self-declared socialist, has often criticized the United States on its history of intervention in the Americas and Washington's stance on countries such as Iran. (World Picture News) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Supporters of Chavez celebrate in the rain in front of the Miraflores Palace as Chavez gives a speech from the balcony after results showed he won re-election by a wide margin, in Caracas on Dec. 3, 2006. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Chavez gives the book 'The Open Veins of Latin America,' by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, to President Barack Obama during a multilateral meeting to begin during the Summit of the Americas at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, in Trinidad and Tobago on April 18, 2009. (Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Chavez listens to Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (left) and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva (right) before the signing of the Bank of the South in Porlamar, Margarita Island, Venezuela, on Sept. 26, 2009. (Juan Barreto / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi greets Chavez during the plenary session at the Africa-South America Summit on Margarita Island on Sept. 27, 2009. Chavez and Gadhafi urged African and South American leaders to strive for a new world order and counter Western economic dominance. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Chavez hugs his daughters Rosa (left) and Maria while appearing to supporters on a balcony of Miraflores Palace soon after his return to the country from Cuba, where he underwent surgery and treatment for cancer, in Caracas, Venezuela on July 4, 2011. Venezuela's ever-theatrical Chavez made a surprise homecoming on Monday after cancer surgery in Cuba, thrilling supporters and saying he would win the battle to regain his health. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Chavez listens to a performance before departing for Cuba at Maiquetia's Airport outside Caracas, Venezuela on Aug. 6, 2011. Chavez said he would return to Cuba for a second session of chemotherapy to treat a cancer that forced him to slow his pace ahead of a re-election bid. (Miraflores Palace via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Chavez smiles after signing a decree for the nationalization of the gold mining industry, at Miraflores Palace in Caracas on Aug. 23, 2011. (Miraflores Palace via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Chavez stands next to his daughter Rosa Virginia, right, Minister of Penitentiary Services Maria Iris Varela, left, and Venezuelan Minister of Health Eugenia Sader at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on Aug. 27, 2011, when Chavez announced plans for a third cycle of chemotherapy for cancer. (Leo Ramirez / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Chavez greets supporters as he travels from the presidential palace to the airport in Caracas on Feb. 24, 2012. The president was on his way to Cuba to have a tumor removed from the same region of the pelvis where he had cancer surgery in 2011. (Fernando Llano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Chavez walks with his family while recovering from surgery in Havana, Cuba, on March 13, 2012.

    Chavez spent much of April and May in Havana, but denied he left Venezuela rudderless during his treatment and promised a resounding re-election win in October.

    He ended a short address in early May choking on his words and with tears in his eyes, in sharp contrast to his triumphant speech to Congress in January that stretched for nine hours. (/Miraflores Palace via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Chavez walks past an image of independence hero Simon Bolivar during a ceremony to mark his birthday in Caracas on July 24, 2012. Chavez unveiled a 3D image of South America's 19th century independence hero Bolivar based on bones he had exhumed two years ago to test a theory that Bolivar was murdered. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Chavez waves to supporters during a campaign rally for his re-election in Caracas on Sept. 17, 2012. (Ariana Cubillos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Chavez hugs the national flag while celebrating from a balcony at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas on Oct. 7, 2012. Venezuela's socialist president won re-election with 54 percent of the ballot to beat opposition challenger Henrique Capriles. (Jorge Silva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Chavez kisses a crucifix during a televised speech form his office at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas on Dec. 8, 2012. Chavez announced that his cancer has returned and that he will undergo another surgery in Cuba. He also said for the first time that if his health were to worsen, his chosen successor would be Vice President Nicolas Maduro. (Marcelo Garcia / Miraflores Press Office via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Chavez blows a kiss from the door of the airplane before departing to Cuba at Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas on Dec. 10, 2012. Chavez flew to Cuba for cancer surgery, vowing to return quickly despite admitting the disease could curb his 14-year rule. The 58-year-old is facing his fourth operation since mid-2011 for a third recurrence of an undisclosed form of cancer in the pelvic area. (Miraflores Palace via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. President Hugo Chavez smiles while reading the Granma daily in a Cuban hospital accompanied by his daughters on Feb. 15, 2013 in Havana, Cuba. Hugo Chavez underwent his fourth cancer surgery on Dec. 11, 2012. (Ministry of Information and Communication via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sits in front of a painting of the country's liberation hero Simon ..
    Kimberly White / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (40) Hugo Chavez through the years - Life of Chavez
  2. Image: Alexander Lukashenko
    Marcelo Garcia / Miraflores Palace via AP
    Slideshow (41) Hugo Chavez through the years - Venezuela mourns
  3. Image: TOPSHOTS-NICARAGUA-VENEZUELA-CHAVEZ-DEATH
    Hector Retamal / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (19) Hugo Chavez through the years - World reaction

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