Chavez faces more cancer treatment before Venezuela vote

CARACAS Sun Mar 4, 2012 2:32pm EST

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez talks during a meeting with his cabinet while recovering from a surgery in Havana, March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez talks during a meeting with his cabinet while recovering from a surgery in Havana, March 3, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Miraflores Palace/Handout

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CARACAS (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez said he will need radiation treatment for cancer in the run-up to Venezuela's October presidential poll, though he insisted there was no metastasis after the removal of another tumor.

"I will live! I will overcome!" the 57-year-old socialist leader said in a televised meeting with some cabinet colleagues from Cuba, where he underwent an operation six days ago for a recurrence of the cancer that first struck him last year.

Chavez's comments about his health came at the end of a 90-minute address to Venezuelans, in which he expressed confidence in his recovery, told jokes, signed state papers and even broke into song.

He is seeking to extend his 13-year rule at a presidential election in October, but his health problems have raised doubts about his capacity to campaign for the presidency or to rule for another six-year term should he win.

Last year, Chavez claimed - wrongly - to be completely cured, so some Venezuelans are skeptical about his own diagnostics and rumors persist in some pro-opposition media circles that he could be dying.

YOUNG OPPONENT

His election rival, 39-year-old opposition leader and Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, is keeping quiet on the health saga, simply wishing Chavez a speedy recovery. But Capriles may benefit politically from the contrast between his own image of youth and energy and that of the ailing president.

Underlining the volatile nature of politics in the polarized South American nation, Capriles' camp said Chavez supporters roughed up a camera crew and shot at his followers, injuring two during a campaign stop in a poor Caracas neighborhood on Sunday.

"Sent by the Socialist Party, they tried to stop our visit with guns. The people came out to receive us anyway," Capriles said. "What's the fear? There is no obstacle that can stop a people who want change."

In Chavez's comments from Cuba, shown on Sunday but recorded on Saturday, he varied between enthusiasm and introspection.

"We are all human, we are all extinguishable, more so with the life I have had, where one year seems like a hundred," said Chavez. He stormed to power as an outsider for the 1998 election and has since then survived street protests, a brief coup, an oil strike and the opprobrium of the United States.

Chavez gave no word on when he would return to Venezuela.

He scoffed at "speculators with nothing better to do", who had suggested his cancer had spread - or metastasized - to other organs. Some pro-opposition journalists have reported that.

"They (doctors) proved the absence of any other lesions either locally, or in nearby organs, or in ones further away. Neither was there metastasis, thank God."

A two-centimeter (0.8-inch) tumor had been successfully removed from the same pelvic area where a larger, baseball-sized growth was taken out in 2011, Chavez said.

"My recovery is firm, fast and sustained, honestly,"

Radiation would, however, be needed, the president said, without giving details of how long it would take. If Chavez is prevented from actively campaigning, it would be the first time in about a dozen national polls that the famously energetic campaigner has not criss-crossed the nation to woo voters.

ALLIES VOW UNITY

In a carefully-choreographed appearance to project an image of being on top of government affairs, a smiling Chavez imparted numerous instructions and signed a raft of approvals for funds to be released for government projects.

"This event we are forced to face must not slow anything. On the contrary - we should accelerate. More spiritual force, more moral strength, more ideological muscle, more revolutionary strength," he said, as his aides applauded.

Chavez also lambasted Venezuela's opposition as "bourgeoisie" intent on dismantling his welfare policies for the poor, spoke of an increasingly fervent Catholic faith and - as always - broke into verse at several points.

"I never used to light candles, but I do now," he said, reading a prayer and showing an image of Cuba's Virgin of Charity.

"This new cross is welcome, I will carry it if necessary," he added, alluding to Jesus's suffering on the cross.

Chavez, a close friend of former Cuban president Fidel Castro, prefers treatment in Havana because he is guaranteed discreet treatment and a lower possibility of media leaks.

Within minutes of Chavez's broadcast, senior allies at home pledged loyalty and unity - seeking to scotch speculation of an ugly struggle for political succession within the upper echelons of the ruling Socialist Party.

"The candidate for the Bolivarian Revolution is called Hugo Chavez Frias. The only one who guarantees stability in this country is Hugo Chavez Frias," Congress head and former military comrade Diosdado Cabello said of his boss at a rally.

Capriles' visit to a Caracas neighborhood on Sunday was part of a "door-to-door" nationwide tour he began this week to drum up votes for the October election. He has so far avoided being drawn into any head-to-head verbal confrontations with Chavez.

Shrugging off being called a "pig" and "fascist" by Chavez and his allies, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Unity opposition coalition, who professes Brazil's "modern left" model as his inspiration, sticks to a political discourse about unemployment, crime, education and other social issues.

"I am going to reach every little corner of Venezuela, even the places where people say 'no one gets there', to talk about what progress means," he said this weekend.

(Additional reporting by Mario Naranjo; Editing by Paul Simao)

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Comments (5)
SeniorMoment wrote:
It looks like God may be having a say in the duration of Chavez’s dominations of Venezuela. It is hard to imagine a man getting repeated and totally independent cancer tumors without the cancer spreading beyond the original location, unless the cancer is bladder cancer or another type with low mortality, but a regular risk of recurrence, except bladder cancer doesn’t normally require radiation therapy, and for most people following the routine follow up exams for the rest of their life catches those tumors.

Venezuelans need to think beyond Chavez’s life and make certain the next government transition is peaceful and prevents the next leader from serving for life. Repeated terms of office by the same leader leads to national stagnation and risks creating dynacyies.

If Chavez were serious about figting cancer, her would have lost at least 100 pounds, so that the tumors would become apparent sooner.

Mar 04, 2012 12:29pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Alex77 wrote:
One wonders if his form of top down communism is the best path forward for their country. By all measures their class warfare has contracted their economy, squandered their immense energy wealth, left most in their nation poor, and resulting in a crime rate that is hard to imagine. Contrasting Norway and Venezuela with similar energy wealth yet tragically different outcomes is a study that would be hard to read without being overwhelmed by sadness for the Venezuelan people and their future.

Mar 04, 2012 2:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Terrae wrote:
Sure he does. He’s not claiming this for pity-votes at all. After all, a guy who rallies his voters by claiming a US invasion/coup is imminent pretty much every election wouldn’t lie about his own cancer, right?

Mar 04, 2012 2:38pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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