From a billboard bearing his face, to a giant inflatable doll and posters hawked on the street below, there is no shortage of images of Hugo Chavez at the Caracas military hospital where he has been since returning from Cuba.

Yet there has been no sight of the 58-year-old Venezuelan president since he came home - during the night and without photos or fanfare - a week ago.

His surprise return to Caracas raised supporters' hopes of a recovery after December surgery in Havana that was his fourth operation in 18 months. But other than the government saying Chavez's breathing problem has worsened, there have been no new details about the patient on the well-guarded ninth floor.