Chavez faces new cancer battle, more surgery in Cuba
BY IAN JAMES Associated Press
Monday, December 10, 2012
12/10/12 at 5:35 AM
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for a third cancer surgery after naming his vice president as his choice to lead the country if the illness cuts short his presidency.
Chavez's announcement cast a shadow of uncertainty over the country, and his supporters poured into city plazas across the nation to pray for his recovery from what appears to be an aggressive type of cancer.
Chavez acknowledged the seriousness of his health situation in a televised address Saturday night, saying for the first time that if he suffers complications Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement.
Several outside medical experts said that based on Chavez's account of his condition and his treatment so far, they doubt the cancer can be cured.
Chavez said he hasn't given up.
"With the grace of God, we'll come out victorious," said Chavez, who held up a crucifix and kissed it during his appearance.
The 58-year-old president is still scheduled to be sworn in for a new six-year term Jan. 10. He has been in office for nearly 14 years, since 1999.
"There are risks. Who can deny it?" Chavez said, seated at the presidential palace beside Maduro and other aides. "In any circumstance, we should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution."
Chavez, who won re-election on Oct. 7, said he would undergo surgery in Havana in the coming days. Lawmakers on Sunday unanimously agreed to grant him permission to leave the country for the operation.
Opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly agreed to Chavez's request and also said that Maduro should take on his duties during his temporary absence, as the constitution specifies. Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges criticized the incomplete information that has been released about Chavez's cancer, saying: "Venezuela has a right to know the truth."
Throughout his treatment, Chavez has kept secret various details about his illness, including the precise location of the tumors and the type of cancer. He has said he travels to Cuba for treatment because his cancer was diagnosed by doctors there.
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said there are no plans at this time for Chavez to cede power, even temporarily, as president.
"He's not asking for permission to leave his duties," Cabello said. "The chief of this revolution is Hugo Chavez."
Under the Venezuelan constitution, as vice president Maduro would automatically fill in as president on a temporary basis should Chavez be unable to finish the current term concluding in early January.
But the constitution also says that if a president-elect dies before taking office, a new election should be held within 30 days. In the meantime, the president of the National Assembly is to be in charge of the government.
More than 1,000 of the president's supporters gathered Sunday in Plaza Bolivar in downtown Caracas to show solidarity, many wearing his movement's red T-shirts while a marching band played.
The president, who had just returned from Cuba early Friday, said that tests had found a return of "some malignant cells" in the same area where tumors were previously removed.
Chavez had named Maduro, his longtime foreign minister, as his choice for vice president three days after winning re-election. The 50-year-old Maduro, a burly former bus driver, has shown unflagging loyalty and has become a leading spokesman for Venezuela's socialist leader in recent years.
Original Print Headline: Chavez faces new cancer battle
People attend a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Plaza Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela, on Sunday. FERNANDO LLANO / Associated Press
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has announced that his cancer has returned and that he will undergo another surgery in Cuba. MARCELO GARCIA / Miraflores Press Office / AP