Venezuelan President Undergoes Surgery for Cancerous Tumor

Posted July 1st, 2011 at 4:25 am (UTC-5)
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he has undergone successful surgery in Cuba for the removal of a cancerous growth.

In a speech on state television late Thursday, Mr. Chavez said the operation addressed a tumor with “cancerous cells.” He voiced hope that he is on the road to recovery.

It was his first televised address to the Venezuelan people since he underwent emergency surgery in Cuba on June 10. His prolonged stay in Cuba after surgery had sparked rumors he may have cancer.

Authorities have said the operation was for an abscess in his pelvic area.

On Wednesday, Venezuelan state television aired footage of the 56-year-old Venezuelan leader walking and talking with his friend, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

President Chavez appeared lucid and talkative, as he and Mr. Castro discussed content in Cuba's state-run newspaper Granma.

Also Wednesday, Venezuela canceled a summit of Latin American leaders scheduled for next week in Caracas, due to Mr. Chavez's health status.

The two-day summit was supposed to be the first meeting of a new regional bloc called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States . Mr. Chavez was to host the summit, which coincided with the 200th anniversary of Venezuela's independence from Spain.

Venezuelan opposition figures have demanded more information about the president's health, saying Mr. Chavez and his aides should be more straightforward. Some opposition politicians have said Vice President Elias Jaua should replace Mr. Chavez until he recovers, a move Jaua has rejected.

Sean Burges, a professor of international relations at Australian National University, tells VOA Mr. Chavez's absence has left a power vacuum in Venezuela, because he is the ultimate authority on all policy matters. Burges says Mr. Chavez's illness could lead to uncertainty among Venezuelans heading into the 2012 elections because there is no clear plan of succession in case the president dies.