“He’s one of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue, if I’m unable to … continue with his firm hand, with his gaze, with his heart of a man of the people,” Mr. Chavez said, also saying that Mr. Maduro’s leadership and “the international recognition he has earned” make him fit to become president.
Mr. Chavez held a small blue copy of the constitution in his hands and waved it. The Venezuelan Constitution says that if a president-elect dies before taking office, a new election should be held within 30 days and that in the meantime the president of the National Assembly is to be in charge of the government.
While he spoke, Mr. Chavez was flanked by both Mr. Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. He asked for lawmakers to grant permission for him to fly to Havana on Sunday. It was unclear what time he would leave.
Announcements on state television called for Mr. Chavez’s supporters to gather in city plazas throughout the country on Sunday to show their solidarity.
Mr. Chavez is scheduled to be sworn in for a new six-year term Jan. 10, and he called his relapse a “new battle.”
This will be his third operation to remove cancerous tissue in about a year and a half.
The 58-year-old president first underwent surgery for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer in Cuba in June 2011, after an operation for a pelvic abscess earlier in the month found the cancer. He had another cancer surgery last February after a tumor appeared in the same area. He has also undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Mr. Chavez said tests immediately after his re-election win had shown no sign of cancer. But he said he had swelling and pain, which he thought was due to “the effort of the campaign and the radiation therapy treatment.”
“It’s a very sensitive area, so we started to pay a lot of attention to that,” he said, adding that he had reduced his public appearances.
Mr. Chavez made his most recent trip to Cuba on the night of Nov. 27, saying he would receive hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Such treatment is regularly used to help heal tissues damaged by radiation treatment.
Mr. Chavez said that while he was in Cuba, tests detected the recurrence of cancer.
He arrived back in Caracas on Friday after 10 days of medical treatment, but until Saturday night he had not referred to his health. His unexplained decision to skip a summit of regional leaders in Brazil on Friday had raised suspicions among many Venezuelans that his health had taken a turn for the worse.
Dr. Carlos Castro, scientific director of the League Against Cancer in neighboring Colombia, told The Associated Press that he expects the operation will likely be followed by more chemotherapy.
“It’s behaving like a sarcoma, and sarcoma doesn’t forgive,” Dr. Castro said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if the cancer had also spread to the lungs or other areas.
“We knew this was going to happen,” he said. “This isn’t good.”View Entire Story
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