(photo credit: REUTERS)
CARACAS - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Friday he will return to Cuba for a second session of chemotherapy to treat a cancer that has forced him to slow his pace ahead of a re-election bid next year.
Chavez, who had surgery in Havana in June to remove a baseball-sized tumor, told state TV in a phone call that he would undergo medical tests in Cuba on Sunday and could resume chemotherapy treatment on Monday depending on the results.
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"My evolution continues to be favorable. Recent tests show that. My physical condition is still not the best," the 57-year-old socialist leader said.
Chavez said his trip to Cuba could last five days.
Last month, Chavez spent a week undergoing chemotherapy on the
communist-led Caribbean island as the guest of his close friend and
mentor, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
He has not said exactly what type of cancer he has, denying media
reports of prostate or colon cancer and repeating that doctors have
found no malignant cells in his body.
Critics fear he could use his disease to garner sympathy and support at a
time when opposition parties sense a chance to end his 12-year rule at
next year's election.
The opposition has accused him of putting Venezuela's national security
at risk by governing from Cuba while recuperating. But the president
said the public understood why he was traveling abroad to seek the best
"Beyond the cries and screams of those calling for a coup, in
desperation, the people support my decision to continue treatment,"
Chavez said in his call to state TV on Friday.
During his illness he has made repeated appearances on state media,
apparently to demonstrate he remains in control, and the phone call was
his fifth such appearance of the day.