HAVANA — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was in good condition Tuesday after surgeons in Cuba removed a lesion from the pelvic area where they cut out a cancerous tumor last year, Vice President Elias Jaua said.
“The diagnosed pelvic lesion was totally extracted,” said Jaua, adding that that “surrounding tissue” was also removed and that there were “no complications” with nearby organs.
Venezuelan officials have never specified the kind of cancer the leftist president has, but they have denied the cancer has spread to other organs.
“President Chavez is in good physical condition,” Jaua said, reading a statement during a special radio and television broadcast.
Jaua said doctors will study the results of the operation to determine “the optimum way to treat the lesion.”
Cuban television also reported that Chavez was operated on successfully in the Center for Medical-Surgical Investigations (CIMEQ), Cuba’s most modern hospital.
Chavez declared himself cancer-free last October, before announcing on February 21 that a small lesion had been discovered.
“Nobody can say right now that it is another malignant tumor,” he said at the time, adding that “the likelihood that it is malignant is greater than that it is not.”
The possible return of Chavez’s cancer has cast doubt over his October 7 re-election bid, likely to be the most closely contested presidential election in years.
Chavez, 57, who remains active as president while absent from Venezuela, has been in power since 1999.
The leftist firebrand now faces a strong challenge from 39-year-old Henrique Capriles, who was chosen as the sole opposition candidate in a primary earlier this month.
Chavez has used Venezuela’s vast oil wealth on popular social programs and to help keep his Communist ally Cuba afloat, as he courted anti-US allies from Iran to Libya.
Jaua’s announcement followed days of speculation about Chavez’s health, which continued Tuesday.
Brazilian journalist Merval Pereira said on his blog that Chavez was been operated on overnight Monday in Havana for an exploratory laparotomy because the case “seemed more complicated” than expected.
He said Brazilian and Russian doctors were on the medical team, led by Cubans.
Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda wrote in El Universal that a Brazilian doctor traveled to Havana Sunday to take part in evaluating Chavez and that a Russian specialist also helped by telephone.
WikiLeaks meanwhile published emails from Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor Sunday including a Venezuelan source who said that Cuban doctors gave Chavez two years to live while the Russians believed he had less than a year due to improper medical equipment.
Citing a “well-connected source,” the analyst wrote in December that Cuban and Russian doctors were disputing how to treat Chavez’s cancer, which had supposedly spread into his lymph nodes and up his spine.
Chavez’s survival in power is pivotal for both his nation — South America’s preeminent oil power and an OPEC member — and Cuba, which depends on Venezuela for cheap oil.
As during his initial cancer care in Havana last year, Chavez did not delegate power to Jaua as some opposition members sought.