Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has departed for Cuba for another cancer operation after announcing Saturday that tests had found a return of “some malignant cells” in the same area where tumors were previously removed, the pelvic area.
At the same time, he Venezuelan government announced Monday the launch of an international campaign in support of Chavez, on Twitter with the hashtag #ElMundoEstaConChavez.
Without providing further details on his new health complications, Chavez, 58, admitted for the first time over the weekend that he may not be able to carry out his duties. He designated as his successor Vice President and Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro.
Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas confirmed Chavez’s departure for Havana, from where he had returned just this past Friday after undergoing tests. Villegas called on citizens to follow broadcasts on Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), which will provide updates on the President’s health.
Chavez, in power since 1999, will undergo a fourth operation since June 2011, though the nature of the tumor was silenced by the government. In July, at the start of a difficult but ultimately victorious electoral campaign, the President had declared he had beaten the cancer.
Chavez called on Venezuelans to support Maduro if he should not be able to start his new mandate on January 10.
Under the Constitution, the parliament speaker should be assigned as the interim leader until new elections within 30 days, but Chavez clearly named his deputy Maduro, 50, a political figure particularly close to the Cuban government.
This article has been edited