CARACAS, Venezuela (CBS4) — South Florida’s Venezuelan community closely watching the health condition of President Hugo Chavez were dealt stunning news Thursday night.
Chavez told his countrymen he underwent surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor.
The leader appeared on state television with the reassuring news that he is recovering, seeking to cool growing questions about his health and ability to govern.
Chavez said in a televised talk that the operation took out a growth in which there were “cancerous cells.” He said the surgery was done after an initial June 10 operation for the removal of a pelvic abscess.
He called his situation “this new battle that life has placed before us.”
Clearly thinner and apparently paler after his surgeries, Chavez read from a prepared speech with a serious expression. He stood at a podium, flanked by the Venezuelan flag and a portrait of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, the namesake of his Bolivarian Revolution political movement.
It was unclear what type of cancer is involved or what Chavez’s treatment will be. He said it had been a “fundamental error” to not have taken better care of his health through medical checks.
“What a fundamental error,” Chavez said.
Chavez did not say how much longer he expected to remain in Cuba recovering.
He said the first surgery was for a “strange formation in the pelvic region that required an emergency operation due to the imminent risk of a generalized infection.”
After that surgery, Chavez said, doctors began to suspect other problems. A series of tests “confirmed the presence of an abscessed tumor with the presence of cancerous cells, which made necessary a second operation that allowed for the complete extraction of the tumor,” he said.
Chavez said his condition has been “evolving satisfactorily while I receive a complementary treatment to combat the different types of cells found, and thereby continue on the path to my complete recovery.”
His appearance came after government efforts, including Tuesday’s release of photos and video showing Chavez with Fidel Castro, failed to quell growing speculation among Venezuelans that he may be seriously ill.
His aides and family had tried to assure the country that the socialist president was recovering well from his surgery for the pelvic abscess, but they provided no details about his condition and gave no specific time for his return home.
There was no information on when and where Chavez’s message was recorded.
Chavez finished with a revolutionary slogan often used by his mentor, Fidel Castro: “Forever onward toward victory! We will be victorious!”
Before finishing, he added: “Until my return!”
After his appearance, some of his closest allies also went on state television. National Assembly president Fernando Soto Rojas, standing alongside other supporters, said Chavez is in good hands in Cuba.
“We wish for him to get better soon! Onward, commander!”
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