Venezuela’s Chavez says he had cancer surgery

In a brief and somber recorded statement read over Venezuelan television, President Hugo Chavez said Thursday night that he was operated on for cancer in Cuba last month, confirming the gravity of his illness but leaving unclear what his prognosis is or when he would return to Venezuela.

Chavez said a malignant tumor in his pelvic region had been completely removed, but he also said that he was undergoing “complementary treatment” without specifying whether that was chemotherapy, radiation or some other forms of therapy. He made no mention of possible metastasis.

Chavez did not suggest that he would give up power while he continues his treatment, which he is receiving in Cuba. His extended absence has raised constitutional issues about whether he should temporarily cede power to Vice President Elias Jaua, who in a statement to reporters Thursday appealed to the solidarity “of all the revolutionary forces of the country.”

In an uncharacteristically short 14-minute statement that he read at a lectern flanked by the Venezuelan flag and a portrait of 19th century revolutionary Simon Bolivar, Chavez said that the cancer diagnosis had thrown him into a spiritual “abyss” similar to one he felt in 2002, when he was held prisoner for two days during a coup attempt.


“Now I find myself in a new battle for life,” Chavez said. “We will continue living and triumphing.”

The announcement cleared up some of the speculation that has swirled since it was announced that Chavez had undergone surgery for a pelvic abscess in Cuba on June 10, two days after arriving there on a state visit. But he left others unanswered, including whether he would run for reelection next year

Chavez said that on his arrival in Cuba, he tried to “dissemble” his illness but Fidel Castro insisted that he undergo tests. The first surgery to relieve the abscess led to a second one to remove the tumor, Chavez said.

Mogollon and Kraul are special correspondents.