CARACAS, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Venezuela's cancer-stricken president, Hugo Chavez, is still suffering respiratory problems after his operation in Cuba more than two months ago, the government said on Thursday.
"The breathing insufficiency that emerged post-operation persists, and the tendency has not been favorable, so it is still being treated," read the first official communique on Chavez's health since his return to Venezuela on Monday.
The short statement, read on national TV by Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, said treatment for Chavez's "base illness" - presumably the cancer first detected in mid-2011 - continued without "significant adverse effects for now."
Little detailed medical information has been made public on Chavez's condition, meaning that the government's occasional short statements are examined by Venezuelans for clues about the future for him and the nation he has governed for 14 years.
Supporters pray the socialist president may recover and return to active rule, but many Venezuelans believe he has come home to resign and smooth over a transition, or simply to die.
"The patient remains in communication with relatives and the government political group in close collaboration with the medical work group," the statement added.
"The president holds firm to Christ, with absolute will to live and maximum discipline in the treatment of his health."
Chavez, 58, is being treated in a Caracas military hospital.
Apart from a few photos released by the government last week, he has not been seen or heard from publicly since his Dec. 11 operation in Havana, his fourth surgery for cancer.
He returned home at 2:30 a.m. local time (0700 GMT) on Monday without any of the fanfare or media attention that accompanied previous homecomings after treatment. (Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Peter Cooney)