Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gestures as he speaks to delegates at the Climate Change Conference on December 16, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
CARACAS, Venezuela (NBC) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is clinging to life, according to the country's vice president.
"The commander is fighting for his health, for his life," Nicolas Madura said on national TV Thursday.
The statement comes 10 days after Chavez returned to Venezuela from Cuba where he had received two months of treatment for his most recent bout with cancer. It was the clearest public indication to date of the severity of the president's condition.
Upon his return to his home country, Chavez was transported to a hospital in the nation's capital, Caracas.
Madura's statement on Thursday contradicted earlier press reports that the populist leader had died but signaled that the prognosis was grim.
Chavez disappeared from the public eye in December to be treated for cancer, but Venezuelans have not been informed of what type of cancer he suffers from, nor the severity. The president was too ill to attend his inauguration in January.
The president has made repeated trips to Cuba for treatment since 2011 and had not apparently cultivated a protégé to succeed him, sparking criticism that he had created a power vacuum.
The former paratrooper, who has been in power since 1999, has been a thorn in the side of Washington, espousing leftist and anti-American policies, and maintaining close ties with Havana.