Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Venezuela's Chavez fighting cancer

Fidel Castro and Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez in Havana, Cuba (AP)

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has revealed that he is fighting cancer after having a tumour removed in Cuba, but assured his countrymen that he is doing well as he sought to cool growing questions about his health and ability to govern.

Mr Chavez said in a televised talk that the operation took out a growth in which there were "cancerous cells".

The 56-year-old president added the surgery was done after an initial operation nearly three weeks ago for the removal of a pelvic abscess.

He called his situation "this new battle that life has placed before us."

Noticeably thinner and paler after his surgeries, Mr Chavez read from a prepared speech with a sad and serious expression. He stood at a podium, flanked by the Venezuelan flag and a portrait of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, the namesake of his Bolivarian Revolution political movement.

Mr Chavez did not say what type of cancer was found or give any details on the treatment he is receiving. He said it was a mistake not have taken better care of his health through medical check-ups, describing it as a "fundamental error".

The leader also did not say how much longer he expected to remain in Cuba recovering, and there was no information on when or where his message was recorded.

His appearance came after government efforts, including Tuesday's release of photos and video showing Mr Chavez with Fidel Castro, had failed to quell growing speculation among Venezuelans about his health.

Citing the president's health, the government announced on Wednesday that it was cancelling a two-day summit of Latin American leaders that Mr Chavez would have hosted next week on the 200th anniversary of Venezuela's declaration of independence from Spain.

Mr Chavez's revelation, and the lack of any return date, was likely to further generate speculation in Venezuela about which of the president's allies could potentially take his place if necessary. Vice President Elias Jaua has led government events in his absence, and the leftist president's elder brother, Adan, recently stepped up his public profile by rallying supporters at a weekend prayer meeting for Mr Chavez's health.

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