Chávez says he’ll go to Cuba for surgery to remove lesionIASW | Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 | No Comments »
BOGOTA – After weeks of intensive campaigning and marathon speeches, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on Tuesday acknowledged he’s not as healthy as he seems.
During a televised speech in his birthplace of Barinas, Chávez, 57, said he would be undergoing surgery to remove a lesion that had reappeared near the site where he had previously been treated for cancer in June.
“It’s a small lesion of two centimeters in diameter, which is clearly visible and it needs to be removed and that requires a new round of surgery,” he said during the inauguration of a tractor factory. “They will operate on me again, remove this lesion and verify whether it is related to the previous tumor or not.”
Chávez said he may travel to Cuba as early as this weekend for the surgery.
In a telephone call to Venezuelan TV late Tuesday, Chávez said the new round of treatment is likely to slow him down.
“In the coming weeks, unfortunately, you won’t see me because I can’t keep up this pace,” Chávez told VTV Television. “I am obligated to deal with this new circumstance, rethink my personal agenda, take care of myself and face what I have to face.”
He also acknowledged that the new lesion is likely to be cancerous, due to its proximity to his previous tumor. While Chávez has acknowledged having cancer, he has never said what kind or what organ is affected.
Without more details, doctors suggested it was impossible to speculate about the depth of the illness.
But Tuesday’s announcement was not good news, said Dr. Floriano Marchetti, an associate professor at the University of Miami and a surgeon who often treats colon and rectal cancer.
“A locally recurring cancer means that the patient has failed surgery and chemotherapy,’’ Marchetti said. “Depending on the nature of the cancer, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to die, but it does indicate that there is a disease that is resistant to treatment.”
In June, Chávez was treated for an undisclosed form of cancer during a trip to Cuba. The president has only said that a tumor about the size of a baseball was found in his pelvic region. The ensuing treatment left him bald, bloated and sidelined for weeks. But recently, Chávez seemed to be recovering as he has reassured his followers he would put up a vigorous fight for the Oct. 7 presidential race.
To a certain extent, Tuesday’s surprise announcement could play in Chávez’s favor, said Oscar Schemel with the Caracas-based Hinterlaces political consulting firm.
“I think this reduces the intensity of the rejection and the intensity of the discontent,” that Chávez had been facing, he said. It will also allow Chávez to get away from national issues, like soaring crime and homelessness. “Once again, the debate will play out in the emotional arena.”
The announcement came amid a wave of fresh rumors that Chávez’s health was failing. In particular, influential Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda had been reporting that Chávez’s cancer had metastasized and that he was neglecting doctors’ orders for more rest.
On Tuesday morning, Communication Minister Andrés Izarra called those reports “a dirty war” and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello called Bocaranda “a sick soul who every day wishes the Commander dead.”
Chávez also denied that his cancer had spread.
“There are people who want me to die because they hate me,” he said. “They start to generate all these rumors to try to create angst, fear and to try to destabilize the country.”
Despite Chávez’s earlier statements, the cancer seems to be more aggressive than his doctor’s originally believed, said Dr. Gustavo León, a South Florida physician.
“This means that tumor has either grown back after having it under control, or that a new tumor has developed with the same characteristics,” he told El Nuevo Herald. “That also means that … the treatment wasn’t as effective as it should have been because, obviously, it didn’t stop the problem”
Since the cancer was first detected last year, Chávez said he has undergone rigorous exams every four month. He said the new lesion was found during a trip to Cuba on Saturday.
Chávez has vowed to win an additional six-year term in October’s presidential race. His election rival is Henrique Capriles Radonski, the 39-year-old governor of Miranda state.
The center-left Capriles, an energetic marathon runner, has painted Chávez as a tired and old leader whose time has come. During the past few weeks, Chávez has seemed bent on dispelling those perceptions.
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