Here is my best non-physician explanation, that reconciles the conflicting reports. Hugo Chavez appears to have spinal metastases of the cancer. This is the VERY end stage, like “very”, as in essentially immediate death without mechanical intervention to prolong life.
The base of the brain (top of the spine) is where the respiratory functions are located. With cancer in the spine there is no way to reverse the effect, and rapid tumor growth occurs. Breathing ceases.
Using a mechanical respirator prolongs the physical life, but it is a place from no return. In essence he is dead, but heart function continues with blood flow supported by breathing from mechanical means. So reports of his death are semi-accurate and simultaneously the reports of him being comatose are also accurate. Why prolong his physical death? (see below).
(summary) He is Clinically Dead , and will not be officially announced till after the 10th because in Venezuela’s constitution it requires an election in the event the elected official is not able to be inaugurated in Jan 10th.
Sorry for weak translation but the original article is in Spanish (link)
VENEZULA - Hugo Chavez entered in recent days in an induced coma , with very weak vital signs, maintained through the artificial[..]instance procured the Havana hospital where he was admitted. Sources consulted by ABC said Monday that it had scheduled a next power of artificial support extending the life of the Venezuelan president . That disconnect, with results expected to die, could occur at any time.
Venezuelan officials say Chavez is still alive, although they seem to be preparing the country for the news of the [rip] of the Bolivarian leader. His son and Minister of Science and Technology, Jorge Arreaza , said Chavez had reached the end of the year “calm and stable”. Meanwhile, Venezuelan Vice President, Nicolas Maduro , said Sunday that his
situation was “delicate”.
For several days, the health of Chavez is considered critical, with its vital functions artificially [..] listed following the operation he underwent on December 11 due to advanced cancer suffering and postoperative complications provadas by infection.
With constant fever, loss of consciousness and the antibóticos unanswered, Chavez came to the end of the year in intensive care, without eating anything solid since undergoing surgery three weeks ago, with “anus against nature” and due to intravenous feeding extraction of about half a meter of intestine , according to intelligence sources with access to your medical team.
Also their respiratory functions were artificially [..] listed after tracheotomy which was submitted by an infection that led to the retention of fluid in the lungs. That picture is
completed with renal insufficiency.
In the operation conducted on 11 to remove the four crops of pelvis and bowel cancer, Venezuelan President were extracted 43.4 inches of small intestine. A biopsy conducted during surgery also detected cancer cells in the inner walls of the intestine and the bladder.
The operation, performed by a medical team arrived in Russia specifically, with the [...] insistence of Cuban doctors also found that bone metastases and spinal cord was progressing steadily. Normally this would have probably required an upcoming bone marrow transplant, but his condition deteriorated and so has not allowed more performances. (you can translate better here)