Spain's influential 'El Pais' newspaper has apologised for splashing a "false photo" of Venezuela's cancer-stricken leader Hugo Chavez on its front page, prompting a furious response from the government in Caracas, which vowed to take legal action.
Within minutes of posting the image online as a global exclusive, 'El Pais' said it had discovered from social media that the photo was not of Mr Chavez. It removed it from its website and withdrew its print edition.
Venezuela's government said the publication of the photo – which showed the head of a man lying down with a breathing tube in his mouth – was "grotesque", while Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez, a close ally of Mr Chavez, called it vile.
"'El Pais' apologises to its readers for the damage caused. The newspaper has opened an investigation to determine the circumstances of what happened and the errors that were committed," the paper said.
Mr Chavez (58) is fighting to recover in Cuba after undergoing his fourth cancer operation in just 18 months.
He has not spoken or appeared in public for six weeks, fuelling speculation about how serious his condition is.
In a statement, 'El Pais' said it was told that the photo had been taken seven days earlier by a Cuban nurse who was part of Mr Chavez's medical team.