Brazil's president in hospital

2010-01-28 14:06

Brasilia - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was hospitalised for abnormally high blood pressure early on Thursday, forcing him to cancel a trip to Davos, Switzerland at the last minute, officials said.

"It was a hypertension crisis, and in light of that a decision was made to cancel the trip to Davos," a presidential spokesperson told AFP.

Lula, 64, was taken to hospital in the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife in the middle of the night on an emergency basis. He had been in his presidential jet, just minutes from take-off for Switzerland.

"The president was already in the plane and everything was ready for take-off," the spokesperson said.

"During the day, his doctor had verified arterial pressure several times and decided to do one more check. It was then he advised Lula to be taken to a hospital for adequate treatment. But everything is fine now."

After resting during a period of observation and being released from the Recife hospital, Lula was said to be en route to Sao Paulo for further tests.

His doctor, Cleber Ferreira, told local media that "the president's state of health is good".

He added that the sudden ill-health was "a sporadic case" and that Lula did not have chronic high blood pressure.

"It was just a series of factors," including exhaustion from a stressful schedule of events and a bout of flu, he said. Lula had complained of a sore throat and chest pains during Wednesday.

The Real Hospital Portugues in Recife confirmed that the president had been admitted, but would not detail his treatment. A spokesperson said only that "the president is already doing well".

Lula, an immensely popular leader at home, was to have received a "global statesmanship" honour at Davos in a ceremony on Friday.

The president has been nicknamed "Air Lula" in the Brazilian media for the extremely high number of domestic and foreign trips he takes.

On Tuesday, the former union leader gave a speech to 10 000 leftwing activists at a World Social Forum in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in which he slammed Davos as having lost its past "glamour".

He also attacked the global financial system, saying it "provoked the biggest world crisis in the past few years through irresponsibility".

On Wednesday, Lula led a commemoration in Recife for those killed in the Holocaust, during which he reportedly already started feeling unwell.

Constitutionally barred from seeking re-election to a third successive term, Lula is focusing on promoting his chief minister, Dilma Rousseff, as his successor in elections to take place in October.

Rousseff, though, has long been receiving treatment for cancer, which she said is in remission. She visited Lula in hospital, according to the website of the Estado de S Paulo newspaper.