Chavez says cancer has returned

2012-12-09 08:31
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez attends a military ceremony at Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas, Venezuela. (Ariana Cubillos, AP)

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez attends a military ceremony at Fuerte Tiuna military base in Caracas, Venezuela. (Ariana Cubillos, AP)

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Caracas - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Saturday that his cancer has returned and he will have to return immediately to Cuba for another round of surgery to remove it.

Chavez announced that he would return to Cuba on Sunday, after doctors there determined that "some malignant cells" had returned, months after physicians there treated him and pronounced him cancer-free.

The firebrand leader made the announcement after undergoing cancer-related treatment again in Cuba this week, and despite frequent assurances on the campaign trail before his re-election in October that he had been cured of cancer.

Chavez did not specify what kind of cancer he has, but told Venezuelan television and radio that it is "in the same area that was affected" previously.

Recurring bouts of cancer have dogged his presidency for the past couple of years, requiring to him spends weeks at a time being treated in Cuba.

The Venezuelan leader said that in the event that he is incapacitated by his illness, his vice-president and heir apparent Nicolas Maduro would govern the country.

Chavez, 58, has repeatedly claimed to have beaten an unspecified cancer in his pelvic region that was diagnosed in 2011 and shrugged off his illness to see off a unified opposition and secure another six-year term on 7 October.

He had a cancerous tumour removed from near his pelvic region last year, but the government never disclosed the type or severity of the cancer, and in July of this year he claimed to be cancer-free.

Chavez, who has been in power since 1999 and gained global prominence as an anti-American firebrand, appeared weak and subdued during the presidential campaign, but still managed to win another term that extends to 2018.

He had last been seen in public on 15 November, and two weeks later he went to Cuba for treatment, having said prior to his trip that he was cured.

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