Chavez arrives in Cuba for tumour removal

2012-02-25 10:10
Caracas - President Hugo Chavez arrived in Cuba for urgent cancer surgery following an emotional departure from Venezuela in which he vowed to win October's election despite his illness.

The socialist leader said he was greeted at the airport by President Raul Castro and that he planned to meet with Cuban doctors for medical tests on Saturday.

"I have faith that everything will go well," Chavez told Venezuelan state television by telephone late on Friday. He said he brought with him a box of books to read to pass the time.

Before departing for Havana, Chavez addressed allies and soldiers in a speech filled with references to Jesus Christ and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

"Our [founding] father Simon Bolivar once said, 'I am a man of troubles.' I say as a son of Bolivar, I too am a man of troubles. We are a people of troubles," Chavez said. "Let the troubles come and add like the cross of Christ to the definitive liberation of the country. With the cross of Christ, one must sometimes bear pain as a spur to love. It is fuel for love."

Chavez, who is seeking his fourth term as president, has said the tumour that doctors will try to remove is probably malignant.

"I say this from my gut: With cancer or without cancer ... come rain, thunder or lightning ... nobody can avoid a great patriotic victory October 7," the president said. "Long live Chavez!"

Chavez, 57, is turning to the same Cuban doctors who extracted a baseball-size cancerous tumour from his pelvic region last summer. This time, the growth is smaller, about 2cm in diameter.

Cuba and Venezuela are staunch allies, and Chavez enjoys a warm relationship with former leader Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.

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