Concern about Venezuela President Hugo Chavez's health grew Friday amid reports the cancer-stricken leader will seek emergency medical care in Brazil, a day after the president broke down during a religious service and begged Jesus Christ to grant him life.
Mr. Chavez, who faces a potentially close presidential contest in October, made his plea during a televised Catholic Mass in his home state of Barinas Thursday.
"Give me life, even if a life in flames, or in pain, it doesn't matter," Mr. Chavez said as grim-faced family members looked on and clapped.
Venezuelan and Brazilian journalists reported that the president will soon seek attention at Sao Paulo's famed Hospital Sirio-Libanes, where former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Brazil's current President Dilma Rousseff have been treated for cancer.
In a press release posted on the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry site, Mr. Chavez said he had talked with former president Lula, and said he would like to visit Brazil soon to meet him. The statement did not mention going to Brazil for treatment.
Venezuela's Defense Minister Gen. Henry Rangel Silva dismissed the reports that Mr. Chavez' health had taken a turn for the worse. "He is in very good health...," he said in an interview which aired Thursday night on the Univision network. "Those rumors are part of a campaign to wear down the government and its achievements."
The defense minister also promised Friday that the country's armed forces would recognize an electoral victory by the opposition if it happens in October's vote.