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Chavez Admits Fighting Cancer


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addresses the nation during a televised speech broadcast on June 30.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has revealed he had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, following weeks of speculation about his health.

Chavez, looking frailer and thinner than usual, confirmed in a speech broadcast June 30 the widespread belief his health problems were more serious than the government had previously said.

In a short television address from Cuba, the 56-year-old leader said he had undergone two operations, the first to remove a pelvic abscess on June 10, after which doctors performed tests on him.

"They confirmed the existence of a tumorous abscess, with the presence of cancerous cells, which required a second operation to extract the tumor completely," he said.

Chavez said the extraction of the cancer was "completely successful."

"We're talking about a major operation that took place without complications, after which I have progressed satisfactorily while I receive complementary treatments to combat the diverse types of cells that were found and continue in that way along the road to my full recovery," he said.

Chavez said he is resolved to "be victorious in this new battle that life has placed before us." He ended his speech with a revolutionary slogan used by his friend Fidel Castro, "Forever onward toward victory! We will be victorious! Until my return!"

It was not clear when the speech was recorded or how long Chavez would remain in Cuba. The government has canceled a two-day summit of Latin American leaders Chavez was set to host next week. Venezuela is also set to mark 200 years of independence on July 5.

Before Chavez's televised appearance, officials had said only that he had undergone emergency surgery in Havana for a pelvic abscess. He was shown in videos released on June 29 animatedly talking to Castro.

His disappearance from public life three weeks ago prompted uncertainty about his health and speculation about Venezuela's political future. The opposition said it was unconstitutional for him to continue governing from abroad.

Chavez's speech on June 30 will probably prompt more speculation. Vice President Elias Jaua has been heading the government in his absence. After Chavez's broadcast, he gave his own, somber televised address, flanked by the oil minister and chief of armed forces.

"There is no time for sadness, but only for courage and for work," Jaua said. "We need unity at this time."

The head of Venezuela's army, General Henry Rangel Silva, later appeared on television to say the military would guarantee the country's stability. He said Chavez was still in charge and would return "soon."

Chavez, an autocratic populist who is a fierce critic of the United States, has allied himself with Castro and other fellow Latin American leftists during his 12-year rule. An outspoken former paratroop general and a hero to Venezuela's many desperately poor, he has sought to remake the country into a socialist state. But Venezuela faces an economic crisis despite its vast oil wealth.

Chavez has taken ever greater control over his country's government and economy by nationalizing some of the oil and other industries while marginalizing the traditional elite and middle classes.

He has been reported as having other health problems this year, including two severe colds and a knee injury that required the use of a cane.

Before his operations, Chavez had said he would run in the next presidential election in 2012.

compiled from agency reports