Saturday night President Hugo Chavez announced on public television that he will return to Cuba to receive surgery for new malignant cells, and that vice-president Nicolas Maduro will be in charge during his absence.
Chavez said that the Cuban doctors informed him that the area where he has previously been affected will need to be operated on again, as new malignant cells have appeared.
Chavez was first diagnosed with cancer in June 2011, and successfully underwent treatment for a recurrence of the disease in February this year.
“Another operation is absolutely necessary… in the next few days, actually the doctor told me it should have been yesterday,” he said.
He also said that “there are always risks in processes like this” and that “if anything happens to me that hinders me [from performing as president]”, Maduro is his preference to replace him.
According to the Venezuelan constitution, article 234, temporary absences of the president are substituted by the vice-president for up to 90 days, a period which is renewable by the national assembly. If something serious happens to the president, obliging him or her to abandon his or her position within the first four years of the six year term, new elections must be held.
Chavez’s new term begins on 10 January, and elections would be called within 30 days, were something happen to cause him to leave office.
Stressing that “this revolution doesn’t depend on one man”, Chavez requested the people vote for Maduro under such a circumstance.
“If such a scenario were to occur, I ask you from my heart that you elect Nicolas Maduro as constitutional president of the republic,” he said, explaining that after the 7 October presidential elections, he repeated medical tests, and “everything came out fine”.
“However, [there was] some inflation, some pain, as a result of the efforts involved in campaigning and the radiotherapy treatment… and we started to pay attention… and during this process [of medical examinations] it was decided to perform the hyperbaric oxygen treatment”.
Chavez returned from Cuba to Venezuela early yesterday morning after receiving that treatment, which is regularly used to help heal tissues damaged by radiation therapy.
However, while in Cuba, “because of certain symptoms, we decided to conduct more exams, another revision, an exhaustive one,” Chavez explained.
Nevertheless, Chavez also expressed “complete faith” in his recovery, saying, “God willing, like the last two times [he was operated on], we will be victorious in this new battle”.
“If there’s anything I would insist upon in this new situation, this new battle… is on strengthening national unity, unity of all the popular [grassroots] forces, the unity of all revolutionary forces… my beloved militancy, allied parties, revolutionary currents, unity, unity, unity,” he said, perhaps in light of the state elections to be held in one week.
“I say that because the adversaries, the enemies of the country don’t rest, and won’t rest, [they’ll continue] creating intrigue, trying to divide, and above all, taking advantage of circumstances like this.”
One Venezuelan activist commented to Venezuelanalsysis.com in reaction to the news, “Some people [the opposition] celebrate, because they think that Chavez is a person… Chavez is a movement, an idea, we are millions who are … prepared to struggle”.