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Cabello read a letter sent to the National Assembly by Chavez, 58, in which he requested a leave of absence from Venezuela to undergo a “course of therapy.” Chavez, who won re-election in October, had told supporters before the vote that he was cured of cancer after having three surgeries in Cuba since June 2011.

Yields on Venezuela’s benchmark dollar bonds maturing in 2027 fell to the lowest since August 2008. Yields fell 34 basis points, or 0.34 percentage point, to 10.13 percent at 3:58 p.m. in Caracas. The price rose 2.43 cents on the dollar to 93.32 cents, the highest since July 2008.

“I’ve been carefully watching over my health and jealously carrying out the treatment plan ordered by my medical team,” Chavez wrote in the letter. “It’s been recommended to me that since it’s been six months following my last treatment, that I begin a special treatment consisting of various sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy that along with physiotherapy will continue to consolidate the process of recovery.”

Coup Anniversary

The former paratrooper was expected to attend an air show today in Aragua state commemorating the air force’s anniversary and the 20th anniversary of an attempted coup to depose then- President Carlos Andres Perez, in which Chavez took part. Since defeating challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski by more than 10 percentage points in an Oct. 7 vote, Chavez has cut down public appearances. He last appeared on television Nov. 15 during a meeting with his economic team, when he spoke for three hours.

“You’d anticipate that if he really were doing well he’d want to show that publicly,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas. “It’s difficult to know what’s really going on because this is probably the tightest kept state secret in Venezuela.”

Bonds have rallied today as investors bet on regime change in Venezuela, said Siobhan Morden, the head of Latin America fixed-income strategy at Jefferies Group Inc., in an e-mailed response to questions. Chavez has consolidated his rule by nationalizing companies and using oil export revenue to build alliances and fuel public spending on social programs for the poor.

While Chavez didn’t say how long he’d stay in Cuba, Venezuela law requires the president to seek permission from the National Assembly for an absence longer than five days.

Oxygen Treatment

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is unlikely to be a treatment for cancer, said Michael Pishvaian, an oncologist at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University in Washington. It’s more likely to be used to treat any lingering effects from radiation or surgical healing, he said in a phone interview. Pishvaian hasn’t treated Chavez.

“It increases oxygen delivery to tissues as they heal themselves, to enhance healing,” Pishvaian said. “It is not simple at all -- it is a high-tech chamber. Even in Washington, only one or two hospitals have a hyperbaric chamber.”

Chavez on Oct. 11 appointed his longtime Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as vice president. Under Venezuelan law, if Chavez is too ill to serve during the first four years of his term, the vice president assumes the presidency for 30 days while elections are held. If he can’t serve the final two years, the vice president can finish out the term.

Chavez, who won the October election with 55 percent of the vote, said Oct. 20 that his health had restricted him to campaigning at about 10 percent of his capacity.

Boxing Ring

“I went into the ring to box with my left arm tied behind me and one foot restricted,” Chavez said Oct. 20 on state television during a ministerial meeting in Caracas. “I boxed for about 15 rounds like that. Our people did a great job to make up for my vulnerabilities that were evident in some cases.”

By announcing that he needs more treatment, Chavez may be sending a message to his followers that they need to prepare themselves to continue his so-called “21st century revolution” without him, said Colette Capriles, a political analyst at the Simon Bolivar University in Caracas.

“In the letter Chavez is ambiguous because he says he’s in good health yet at the same time that he needs to get better,” Capriles said. “That generates uncertainty but also a message to his people that he is a fragile human being.”


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