* Doctors found malignant cells in his pelvic area
* Surgery to take place in Havana within days
* Taps Vice President Maduro as possible successor
By Daniel Wallis and Marianna Parraga
CARACAS, Dec 8 Venezuela's Hugo Chavez said on
Saturday that his cancer had returned and he would undergo
another operation in the coming days, and for the first time the
president named a successor if anything happened to him.
The news was a big blow for supporters of the 58-year-old
socialist leader, who elected him in October to a new six-year
term in office. Twice since mid-2011 Chavez has said he was
cured, and then had to have more surgery.
In an emotional television broadcast from the Miraflores
presidential palace, Chavez was flanked by ministers and looked
resolute. He even sang, briefly. And in his first comments on a
possible successor, he said supporters should vote for Vice
President Nicolas Maduro.
Speculation about Chavez's health had grown during a
three-week absence from public view that culminated in his
latest trip for medical tests in Cuba - where he has undergone
three cancer operations since June 2011. He returned to
Venezuela on Friday.
"Unfortunately, during these exhaustive exams they found
some malignant cells in the same (pelvic) area ... . It is
absolutely necessary, absolutely essential, that I undergo a new
surgical intervention," the president said.
"With God's will, like on the previous occasions, we will
come out of this victorious. I have complete faith in that."
Chavez, who has dominated Venezuelan politics since taking
power 14 years ago, said he would return to Cuba on Sunday, and
that the operation would take place there in next few days.
He said he had rejected the advice of his doctors to have
the surgery sooner, on Friday or this weekend, telling them he
needed to fly back to Venezuela to seek the permission of
lawmakers to return for the operation.
"I decided to come, making an additional effort, in truth,
because the pain is not insignificant," Chavez said. "But with
treatment and painkillers, we are in the pre-operation phase."
MADURO GETS THE NOD
Chavez has been receiving treatment at the tightly guarded
Cimeq hospital in Havana as a guest of his friend and political
mentor, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The normally garrulous president had sharply cut back his
public appearances since winning the Oct. 7 election, saying the
campaign and radiation therapy had left him exhausted.
Under Venezuela's constitution, an election would have to be
held within 30 days if Chavez were to leave office in the first
four years of his next term, which is due to begin on Jan. 10.
For the first time, in a rare admission that he might not be
able to govern for as long as he hopes, he singled out Maduro -
a 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader - as his chosen
"He is a complete revolutionary, a man of great experience
despite his youth, with great dedication and capacity for work,"
Chavez said. "In a scenario where they were obliged to hold a
new presidential election, you should choose Nicolas Maduro."
In addition to putting his own future in doubt, the news
that Chavez's cancer has returned is also a blow to ruling
Socialist Party candidates who wanted him to campaign alongside
them before elections for state governors on Dec. 16.
Another prolonged absence recuperating in Cuba could also
postpone important policy decisions, such as a widely expected
devaluation of the bolivar currency.