March 1, 2009 / 7:11 PM / 10 years ago

Doctor tells Venezuela's Chavez to stop talking

CARACAS (Reuters) - It’s something few people can tell Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: stop talking.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez attends a ceremony at the National Assembly in Caracas February 28, 2009. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout

Chavez, whose speeches often stretch five hours or more, said on Sunday his doctor told him to stay quiet for three days to help a sore throat.

“I am a little affected by the intensive, continuous and permanent use of this cannon I’ve got here and the doctor has told me not to talk,” Chavez said to audience laughter.

Chavez immediately responded that silence was not the best medicine for him.

“I said ‘listen friend, do what you can but how am I going to follow this treatment?’ Three days without talking? I lasted one, not even one,” Chavez said at the start of a television show he presents every week.

Spain’s King Juan Carlos famously tried to silence Chavez, sparking a diplomatic incident when he told the Venezuelan leader to “shut up” during a summit in 2007.

Chavez makes frequent joking references to his loquacious style and occasionally tries, with little success, to shorten his speeches.

Two consecutive election races in recent months have taken their toll on Chavez, whose throat is inflamed after dozens of hours-long stump speeches in which he often sings and shouts.

On the show, Chavez often speaks for five hours or more.

In January, Chavez spoke for about seven hours without a break during an appearance in Congress.

He campaigned intensively before state and city elections in November, then launched straight into a new campaign to amend the constitution via a referendum.

Chavez won the referendum, which removed term limits and allows him to run for re-election as many times as he pleases.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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