Paraguayan leader's health stable after treatment

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Sunday, 3 October 2010 02:30 GMT

* President Lugo receiving cancer treatment in Brazil

* Doctor says Lugo will not need to undergo surgery

* High-risk infection ruled out, diagnosis less worrisome (Updates with doctor ruling out high-risk infection)

By Luciana Lopez and Daniela Desantis

SAO PAULO/ASUNCION, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo&${esc.hash}39;s health was stable on Saturday after he was rushed to a hospital in Brazil to treat what turned out to be a vascular problem, his doctor said.

Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop who has led Paraguay for two years, underwent a battery of tests in the intensive care unit of the Sao Paulo hospital where he has been receiving treatment for cancer.

Alfredo Boccia, Lugo&${esc.hash}39;s personal doctor, told reporters outside the hospital that the Paraguayan leader&${esc.hash}39;s condition was stable after he was treated for what doctors initially thought was a life-threatening throat infection.

Boccia said Lugo would not have to undergo surgery and that tests revealed the president had a thrombosis, or blood clot, in the superior vena cava, likely the result of chemotherapy.

"This is a diagnosis that is much less worrisome than what we initially thought," Boccia later told a Paraguayan television station, adding that Lugo would probably remain hospitalized for a few days.

The superior vena cava is the vein that carries blood from the upper half of the body to the heart&${esc.hash}39;s right atrium.

A sharp deterioration in Lugo&${esc.hash}39;s health could force him to cede power temporarily to Vice-President Federico Franco, who has often clashed with the former priest over his leftist policies, but has vowed not to take advantage of his illness.

Franco, a doctor who formed an alliance with Lugo to run for office, has taken over presidential duties until Lugo returns to Paraguay. He would take over as president of the world&${esc.hash}39;s No. 4 soy exporting nation if Lugo died and then call elections for a new vice president.

A power struggle could put at risk a decade of political stability that followed a volatile period after the end of Alfredo Stroessner&${esc.hash}39;s dictatorship in 1989.

Lugo has dismissed his top military chiefs four times since becoming president, the last time in August in a basic reorganization. Last November, he replaced the heads of the army, navy and air force after denying rumors of a possible coup amid growing opposition criticism of his government.

Lugo has said the disease will not impede his work. On Thursday, he was admitted to a hospital in the capital Asuncion after feeling unwell.

His health deteriorated on Saturday, and he was rushed to Sao Paulo after doctors initially diagnosed him with a severe throat infection that they thought risked spreading to his lungs.

Lugo, an ally of firebrand Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is accused by critics of failing to deliver on his campaign promises to redistribute wealth.

His popularity has also taken a hit from a string of paternity scandals. Lugo has admitted to fathering a child when he was still a cleric.

He has also been under pressure to crack down on armed groups charged with kidnappings and killings in a remote cattle-raising region near the Brazilian border. The rebels have terrified ranchers but have had little impact on overall investment in the land-locked country. (Writing by Alonso Soto and Todd Benson; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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