Chavez proclaims “I will overcome”, admits radiation treatment for cancer
President Hugo Chavez said he will need radiation treatment for cancer in the run-up to Venezuela's October presidential poll though he insisted there was no metastasis after the removal of another tumour.
I will live! I will overcome! the 57-year-old populist leader said in a televised meeting with some cabinet colleagues from Cuba, where he underwent an operation six days ago for a recurrence of the cancer that first struck him last year.
Chavez's comments about his health came at the end of a 90-minute address to Venezuelans, in which he expressed confidence in his recovery, told jokes, signed state papers and even broke into song.
He is seeking to extend his 13-year rule at a presidential election in October, but his health problems have raised doubts about his capacity to campaign for the presidency or to rule for another six-year term should he win.
Last year, Chavez claimed - wrongly - to be completely cured, so some Venezuelans are sceptical about his own diagnostics and rumours persist in some pro-opposition media circles that he could be dying.
His election rival, 39-year-old opposition leader and Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles, is keeping quiet on the health saga, simply wishing Chavez a speedy recovery. But Capriles may benefit politically from the contrast between his own image of youth and energy and that of the ailing president.
In Chavez's comments from Cuba, shown on Sunday but recorded on Saturday, he varied between enthusiasm and introspection.
We are all human, we are all extinguishable, more so with the life I have had, where one year seems like a hundred, said Chavez. He stormed to power as an outsider for the 1998 election and has since then survived street protests, a brief coup, an oil strike and the opprobrium of the United States.
Chavez gave no word on when he would return to Venezuela.
He scoffed at speculators with nothing better to do, who had suggested his cancer had spread - or metastasized - to other organs. Some pro-opposition journalists have reported that.
”They (doctors) proved the absence of any other lesions either locally, or in nearby organs, or in ones further away. Neither was there metastasis, thank God.
A two-centimetre tumour had been successfully removed from the same pelvic area where a larger, baseball-sized growth was taken out in 2011, Chavez said.
My recovery is firm, fast and sustained, honestly,”
Radiation would, however, be needed, the president said, without giving details of how long it would take. If Chavez is prevented from actively campaigning, it would be the first time in about a dozen national polls that the famously energetic campaigner has not criss-crossed the nation to woo voters.
Chavez, a close friend of former Cuban president Fidel Castro, prefers treatment in Havana because he is guaranteed discreet treatment and a lower possibility of media leaks.
Within minutes of Chavez's broadcast, senior allies at home pledged loyalty and unity - seeking to scotch speculation of an ugly struggle for political succession within the upper echelons of the ruling Socialist Party.