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Chavez heads to Cuba for treatment

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Hugo Chavez, flanked by his daughters Rosa Virginia and Gabriela, after he announced he will return to Cuba for chemotherapy (AP)

Hugo Chavez, flanked by his daughters Rosa Virginia and Gabriela, after he announced he will return to Cuba for chemotherapy (AP)

Hugo Chavez, flanked by his daughters Rosa Virginia and Gabriela, after he announced he will return to Cuba for chemotherapy (AP)

Politicians in Venezuela have approved a request by President Hugo Chavez to travel to Cuba to undergo chemotherapy.

The unanimous vote came after a passionate debate in which opposition politicians said they supported the president's right to receive treatment but disputed his plan to remain in charge while in Havana.

Opposition politicians also demanded more information about his illness.

Mr Chavez said opposition politicians were wrong to call for him to delegate duties to his vice president while away and said he would maintain his position as president.

"I will come back much better than I am right now," Mr Chavez said in televised remarks from the presidential palace after the legislative session.

The socialist leader said he would leave within hours for Havana and that he expects to be back soon. He did not say how long he would be away.

Mr Chavez had appeared on television and briefly interrupted the session after one opposition politician called for the president's duties to be temporarily delegated to the vice president.

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"What stupidity," Mr Chavez said, dismissing those who raised such questions as "spokesmen of the right".

Mr Chavez said they had been "bordering on ridiculousness" during the debate. He then listened as the debate continued. The screen was split on television as politicians debated and Mr Chavez listened from the presidential palace, seated with his Cabinet ministers.

Opposition politicians, who hold a minority of seats in the National Assembly, said they supported Mr Chavez's request to leave for Cuba but that they believed it constituted a "temporary absence" and that the president owed the country a more detailed explanation of how serious his illness is.


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