For Venezuela’s Chavez, a deathbed conversion?

Cancer-stricken leftist praying for Christian ‘miracle’

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“For many Venezuelans, Chavez is a savior who arrived to help everybody else, and now he’s the one who needs help, and many of us fear all will be lost if he dies.”

Mr. Chavez has been receiving radiation therapy in Cuba in recent days, the latest phase in treatments that since June have included chemotherapy and two surgeries that removed tumors from his pelvic region, though he has not said what sort of cancer he has.

Mr. Chavez hasn’t appeared on television since leaving Venezuela, instead communicating with supporters through Twitter messages.

Despite the long absences, Mr. Chavez has been leading opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles by double digits in recent polls.

Some of his supporters said they see Mr. Chavez’s increased devotion as a natural evolution for a president in a dire situation.

As soon as Mr. Chavez revealed he had a tumor removed last year, a pro-Chavez group called the Council of Christian Public Employees organized dozens of prayer meetings across the country, several of which were broadcast live on state television and Christian radio stations.

“The president could have decided to distance himself from God or not believed in him due what he was going through,” said Linda Aguirre, the organization’s president. “I thank God that he’s chosen the most important decision of his life: to embrace our Lord.”

Indian shamans wearing parrot feathers and beads also held a healing ritual for Mr. Chavez at a Caracas plaza last month, performing traditional dances and chants, and kneeling on the ground in prayer.

“The objective is to inject the leader of the Bolivarian Revolution with positive energy,” said Jesus Antonio Juagivioy, a chieftain from the president’s home state of Barinas who participated in the ceremony.

“We pray for his total recuperation, and we know the spirits of our ancestors will help.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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