Chavez returning to Cuba for more cancer treatment
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Monday he would soon return to Cuba for another round of radiation treatment in his ongoing battle with cancer, which resurfaced earlier this year.
“I will return in the next few hours to Havana,” he said in a message broadcast on radio and television. “We are in the home stretch of my radiation treatment.”
Chavez’s cancer, first detected in his pelvic area in June 2011, was found to have recurred in February.
Since surgery to remove the new lesion, he has undergone repeated rounds of treatment in Cuba, and most recently returned from Havana on April 26.
The 57-year-old Chavez, who is running for a third six-year term in the October 7 election, has never publicly revealed the kind of cancer he has or its exact location.
Chavez said he will travel once he gets approval from the National Assembly, which must authorize travel abroad for more than five days. The request is a formality, since his supporters have a majority in the legislature.
“These are not easy days,” Chavez said, “but we are warriors in facing adversity, and with faith in god, in Christ the redeemer and with this immense love from the Venezuelan people… we will prevail.”
Chavez said that he would return home quickly from Cuba to continue recovering from the “impact” of radiation therapy.
The true state of Chavez’s health is unknown. After five rounds of chemotherapy, the cancer returned and he underwent surgery again on February 26. So far, he has undergone four rounds of radiation therapy in Cuba.
Chavez, in power since 1999, is running for re-election as a “revolutionary socialist” against Henrique Capriles, the youthful Miranda state governor and center-left candidate for the united opposition.
Leaders in Chavez’s party on Monday held a press conference to deny press reports that they were considering other options for the October 7 presidential vote.
“The thought has not crossed our mind for a second to reach October without Chavez,” Aristobulo Isturiz, a senior official with the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), told reporters.
Local media widely reported that Portuguesa state governor Wilmar Castro Soteldo said in a closed-door meeting last week that the party should prepare for three possible election scenarios: a weakened Chavez, no Chavez, or suspending the vote.
There is currently no clear party successor to Chavez, who has centralized power since taking office and does not tolerate party dissent.
Capriles has urged the president to be honest about his illness.
“Instead of sending little messages by phone, he should face the television cameras and speak frankly and honestly to Venezuelans in order to end the speculation,” Capriles said on Saturday.
Though polls still show Chavez leading Capriles, the president is battling public fatigue with his “socialist revolution,” an unstable economy with soaring inflation, and rampant street crime.