Caracas, Venezuela – He didn't want to go.
Those were reportedly Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's dying words after a long bout with cancer and a massive heart attack that killed him, the head of the country's presidential guard said late Wednesday.
"He couldn't speak but he said it with his lips ... 'I don't want to die. Please don't let me die,' because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country," Gen. José Ornella told The Associated Press.
The general said he spent the last two years with Chávez, including his final moments, as Venezuela's president of 14 years battled an unspecified cancer in the pelvic region.
Ornella spoke to the Associated Press outside the military academy where Chávez's body lay in state. He said Chávez's cancer was very advanced when death came but gave no details.
Ornella did not respond when asked if the cancer had spread to Chávez's lungs.
The government announced on the eve of Chávez's death that he had suffered a severe new respiratory infection. It was the second such infection reported by officials after Chávez underwent his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11.
Venezuelan authorities have not said what kind of cancer Chávez had or specified exactly where tumors were removed.
During the first lung infection, near the end of December, doctors implanted a tracheal tube to ease Chávez's breathing, but breathing insufficiency persisted and worsened, the government said.
Ornella said that Chávez had "the best" doctors from all over the world but that they never discussed the president's condition in front of him.
The general said that Chávez knew when he spoke to Venezuelans on Dec. 8, three days before his final surgery in Cuba, that "there was very little hope he would make it out of that operation."
It was Chávez's fourth cancer surgery and previous interventions had been followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
Ornella echoed the concern of Vice President Nicolás Maduro that some sort of foul play was involved in Chávez's cancer.
"I think it will be 50 years before they declassify a document (that) I think (will show) the hand of the enemy is involved," he said.
The general didn't identify who he was talking about, but Maduro suggested possible U.S. involvement on Tuesday. The U.S. State Department called the allegation absurd.
Maduro, Chávez's self-anointed successor, said Chávez died Tuesday afternoon in a Caracas military hospital.
The government said Chávez, 58, had been there since returning from Cuba on Feb. 18.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.