Chavez to skip Americas summit on doctors' advice

CARACAS Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:33pm EDT

1 of 3. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gestures next to his daughter, Virginia, from People's Balcony at Miraflores Palace in Caracas April 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Silva

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez will not attend this weekend's hemispheric summit in Colombia and will instead fly straight to Cuba to continue radiation treatment for cancer, his foreign minister said on Saturday.

The 57-year-old socialist leader said on Friday the radiation therapy was physically tiring and that his doctors were evaluating whether he should go to the "Summit of the Americas" en route to Havana for a fourth session.

"On the recommendation of his medical team, President Chavez decided not to attend this event," Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro told reporters in Cartagena at the meeting of about 30 heads of state, including U.S. President Barack Obama.

"Today he leaves for Havana to continue to his treatment, which is going excellently," Maduro said.

Chavez said on Friday he planned to stay in Cuba longer than on his recent trips to complete his radiation treatment of five sessions. On Saturday, Venezuela's National Assembly legislature authorized him to leave the country for up to 90 days.

An appearance at the summit would have been a show of strength for Chavez, who has undergone three cancer operations in less than a year. Very little official information has been given about his health, including what type of cancer he has.

It would also have delighted his supporters by giving Chavez - who once at the United Nations called former U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" - the chance to challenge Obama in front of dozens of other leaders.

Despite his cancer, Chavez is campaigning hard to win a new six-year term at an October 7 election that is shaping up to be the toughest political fight of his 13 years in power due to his ill health and a serious opposition challenge.

His opponents have criticized Chavez for seeking treatment in communist-led Cuba, his main ally, instead of Venezuela, and for keeping Venezuelans in the dark about the extent of his illness, raising suspicions that his cancer may have spread.

"To date there has been no medical report ... we do not know how serious the cancer is," opposition lawmaker Carlos Berrizbeitia said in the National Assembly.

Venezuelans do not know where Chavez had cancer or "how long the president has left to live," Berrizbeitia said.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Vicki Allen)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (1)
donebeenthere wrote:
Here we have a so called “leader” of a place which would count itself as a “forward thinking”, well educated country, who is trasping off to Cuba for medical treatment, when there is excellent care, good facilities, and well trained physicals (mostly trained in the USA). I would be ashamed to say I could get better care in a third rate dictatorship, where the locals still think a 1957 Ford is the car of their wishes. The citizens of Venezuela deserve better than this tin-pot wannbe dictator who in a quick decade did more damage to their reputation and wellness than all of
the legally constituted governments gained in the 200 previous years. He has put S American political advancement back to almost the middle ages, all by himself, without having to have the Castro Brothers to hang onto. They gave him 90 days? He has trained his own military leadership in illegal nabbing, and if he isn’t back way before that date, he just may not have a place to come back to. hat might be all for the good, and might wake up the population as to what they have missed, having a real military dictator, to kick out.

Apr 14, 2012 7:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.