President Hugo Chavez on Thursday denied a report that his health has taken a turn for the worse, telling Venezuelans he was "doing well" as he recovered from cancer-fighting chemotherapy.
The Miami-based Spanish language newspaper El Nuevo Herald, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the case, said Wednesday that Chavez was rushed to a military hospital for emergency care following kidney failure.
One source told the newspaper the leftist leader was "in fairly serious overall condition."
"I'm doing well, I'm recovering day by day. Much discipline is required for that and I have it," Chavez said in a telephone interview with state broadcaster VTV.
"I'm doing well despite hearing... the rumors spreading last night, and I ask Venezuelans not to take heed of rumors," added the president, an anti-US stalwart.
"I would be the first to come out and admit or explain any difficulties in the (recovery) process, but it has not gone anywhere beyond the normal after a period of intensive treatment," Chavez said, adding that the rumors he was gravely ill "seek to create uncertainty."
Chavez said he was speaking from the Miraflores presidential palace, and while he insisted he was carrying on with many duties, he was working at "half-speed" in compliance with his medical treatment.
After undergoing a fourth round of chemotherapy in Cuba last week, Chavez sought to assure Venezuelans he was healthy, telling them on Sunday that chemotherapy treatment had not left him with any debilitating side effects.
Chavez, 57, had a cancerous tumor removed on June 20 in Havana, but officials have provided little information about the nature of the disease.
Officials have said the tumor was removed from his "pelvic area," but have given no indication of the severity of his condition.
The report by El Nuevo Herald newspaper late Wednesday said he was rushed to hospital on Tuesday.
"When he arrived, he was in quite serious shape and that is why he was brought in for emergency care," a source told the paper.
Venezuela's Information Minister Andres Izarra appeared to deny the report in a posting on Twitter.
"Those who should be admitted are the journalists of the Nuevo Herald, except into a madhouse (instead of a hospital)," Izarra tweeted, without providing further details.
Official handout photos in Cuba showed a hairless Chavez bidding farewell to Cuban President Raul Castro.
After returning to Caracas and giving a brief statement Friday, Chavez stayed uncharacteristically out of the media spotlight, and the silence of a leader who has been omnipresent in Venezuelan public life revived the mystery surrounding his health.
Chavez has been in power since 1999 and has said he would recover in time to win re-election by a "knock-out" in 2012, but his cancer has forced Venezuelans to contemplate the prospect of political life without the longtime leader.
Last Saturday opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, 40, registered as a candidate, and put Chavez on notice that he is "committed to defeating him at the ballot box" next year.
But Chavez insisted Thursday that "those who hate me and wish me ill, they will be disappointed. I'm fine and I'll be recovered soon," he said.
"In a few days, a few weeks, you'll start to see me like many have come to expect, in the game and working."