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Hugo Chávez died of a heart attack after great suffering, the general said.
Venezuelan president mouthed his desire to live before succumbing to massive heart attack, general reveals

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez died of a massive heart attack after great suffering and inaudibly mouthed his desire to live, the head of the country's presidential guard said.

"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," General Jose Ornella said.

The general said he had spent the past 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 Associated Press outside the military academy where Chávez's body lay in state. He said Chávez's cancer was very advanced. He 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 respiratory infection, the second since he underwent his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba on 11 December.

Venezuelan authorities have not said what kind of cancer Chávez had or specified where tumours were removed.

During the first lung infection, near the end of December, doctors implanted a tracheal tube to ease Chávez's breathing, but the problem persisted, the government said.

Ornella said Chávez had had the best doctors from all over the world, but they had never discussed the president's condition in front of him.

The general said he did not know what kind of cancer afflicted Chávez, but added: "He suffered a lot."

He said Chávez had known when he spoke to Venezuelans on 8 December 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 the 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 did not identify who he was talking about, but Maduro suggested possible US involvement on Tuesday. The US state department called the allegation absurd.

Maduro, Chávez's self-anointed successor, said Chávez died on Tuesday afternoon in a Caracas military hospital.

The government said Chávez, 58, had been there since returning from Cuba on 18 February.

Source: Associated Press