Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Chavez supporters' bald devotion

Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez gestures during a religious event in solidarity with his struggle against cancer (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Supporters of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez have shaved their heads in solidarity with their leader's struggle against cancer as hundreds prayed and sang at a televised event in Caracas.

Barbers shaved off the hair of several men and at least one woman while the crowd swayed to a religious song.

Mr Chavez, who is bald from chemotherapy, smiled and waved to the crowd.

"We're Christians. Christ unites us," Mr Chavez said in a speech, noting that others had decided to join him and "change their look".

Mr Chavez said he may undergo a third round of chemotherapy but expressed optimism that the worst of his illness has passed. "I no longer feel sick but rather that I'm convalescing from the illness I had," Mr Chavez said.

Those attending included a group of six from the Dominican Republic who shaved their heads in a show of support outside the Venezuelan Embassy in their country on Friday. Mr Chavez greeted the Dominicans with hugs and stood arm-in-arm with them.

He also grew emotional as he recalled meeting a young cancer victim who gave him a Venezuelan flag some time ago. He said the girl's name was Genesis, and she had an advanced brain tumour. He said she had approached him at an event and given him the flag.

"She told me, 'Chavez, I'm going. I know I'm going ... In this flag, Chavez, I'll stay with you," Mr Chavez said, his voice cracking and his eyes tearing up for a moment.

Mr Chavez embraced the flag and vowed to survive. "It's time to live," he said.

Mr Chavez returned from his latest round of chemotherapy in Cuba on August 14. He underwent surgery in Cuba in June that removed a cancerous tumour from his pelvic region. He has not specified where the tumour was located. He has said the chemotherapy has been going well and aims to ensure no malignant cells reappear.

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