Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is hospitalized in Cuba and is in critical condition, according to a report published in the Miami, Florida-based El Nuevo Herald newspaper.
He was last heard from on June 12 when his voice was broadcast on a telephone call with Venezuelan state television. At the time, the president told the interviewer doctors had found no sign of of "malignant" illness.
An official statement from the Venezuelan government said Chavez had been operated on for a pelvic abcess on June 10 in Havana. At the time he was in Cuba on an official state visit.
However, the report quoted unnamed U.S. intelligence sources who said Chavez is currently in "critical condition, not grave, but critical, in a complicated situation."
According to the EFE news agency, the president's daughter Rosines and his mother Marisabel Rodriguez "urgently" were flown to Cuba in a Venezuelan air force plane either Wednesday or Thursday last week.
A number of media reports have said that Chavez is actually suffering from prostate cancer, although intelligence sources have not confirmed the reports.
On Friday, four "tweets" were sent on Chavez's Twitter account in what appeared to be an attempt to quiet rumors that his condition was grim.
"Today is the day of my army and the sun dawned bright. A big hug to my soldiers and my beloved people," he allegedly wrote.
Three months ago, Chavez offered to help Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi negotiate a settlement with rebel forces trying to force his ouster. Chavez and Qaddafi have been close friends and allies for years.
Several years ago, he also tightened ties with Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy, the Hizbullah terrorist organization.
Under Chavez, Venezuela broke diplomatic ties with Israel following Israel's three week counter terrorism mini-war against the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009. Anti-Semitism has increased in Venezuela, which also has made it extremely difficult for would-be Israeli tourists to visit the country as well.