BLOOMBERG: Chavez Says He's Being Treated for Cancer After Cuba Surgery
- Chavez Says He's Being Treated for Cancer After Cuba Surgery
Thursday, June 30, 2011
June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez said he is being treated for cancer in Cuba after doctors on the communist island detected a tumor during an emergency operation this month that had been shrouded in mystery.
Chavez, in a videotaped message read from Havana, said he was recovering favorably after doctors removed the tumor and all cancerous cells in a second, previously undisclosed operation since arriving to Cuba on June 8. The self-declared 21st century socialist revolutionary gave no date for his return and said his treatment "can't be rushed."
"I feel like I'm emerging from a dark abyss and beginning the climb back," said a thinner-looking Chavez, standing behind a podium flanked by a Venezuelan flag and portrait of his hero, 19th century South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar.
Chavez, 56, said he remains in charge of his nation's affairs from Cuba and is in constant contact with his cabinet.
Vice President Elias Jaua urged his compatriots to rally around the convalescing leader and march in the streets July 5 to celebrate Venezuela's 200th anniversary of independence from Spain. The 41-year-old sociologist and former student leader, who under Venezuela's constitution would succeed Chavez if the president were to die or resign, said the government would continue to function normally in the leader's absence.
"There's no time for sadness," Jaua, surrounded by the rest of Chavez's cabinet, said in a live televised address from the presidential palace after Chavez's message. "Unity is what's needed now. We call on all the social movements and revolutionary forces to show the maximum discipline."
Chavez traveled to Havana June 8, after a trip to Brazil and Ecuador, and three days later was operated to remove what he said was a pelvic abscess. Before today's address, he had spoken to the nation only once before, on June 12, when he called into a television program.
Chavez, who is expected to seek re-election for a third term next year, said in his address that he decided to undergo treatment at the urging of his ally, former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
"He interrogated me almost like a doctor, and I confessed to him almost like a patient," said Chavez, who was elected for the first time in 1999.
He compared his illness to the most difficult moments of his life, like his jailing in 1992 after leading a failed coup attempt and his own brief removal from power in 2002. Reading from a speech -- a sight unfamiliar to Venezuelans accustomed to seeing their president set national policy during near-daily television appearances lasting sometimes six hours -- he said he neglected his health too long.
Chavez's seclusion and silence has been fueling speculation that his condition was worse than he and officials had let on. Earlier today, the government cancelled a summit of heads of state from Latin America to coincide with the nation's bicentennial. Aside from a June 12 telephone interview on the Telesur network, his only other communication were messages sent from his Twitter account on June 25.
On June 29, he was seen in a videotape chatting animatedly with Castro while reading headlines from Cuban newspapers and discussing fellow socialist icon Salvador Allende, who was removed as Chile's President in a 1973 military coup.
"For now and always, we will live and conquer," Chavez said at the end of tonight's 15-minute speech. "Until my return."
--With assistance from Charlie Devereux in Caracas. Editors: Joshua Goodman