The most-recent speculation about Hugo Chavez's mysterious health issues has come to an end: In a speech, the Venezuelan leader admitted "he had undergone surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor and was receiving more treatment," reported Reuters. As we noted on the site yesterday, speculation about Chavez's health had been mounting since April, when he scaled back TV and public appearances. BBC News has a translation of the speech's highlights (video below):
Mr Chavez said he underwent a first operation on a pelvic abscess on 10 June, just as officials had informed the Venezuelan public. But during his recuperation, tests had "confirmed the existence of a tumour with cancerous cells", forcing him to undergo another operation. The extraction of the tumour had been "completely successful", he said.
He added that his condition had been "evolving satisfactorily" while he received a "complementary treatment to combat the different types of cells found, and thereby continue on the path to my full recovery". "I deeply appreciate the demonstrations of solidarity by Venezuelans and other brotherly people," he said.
Mr Chavez called it a "new battle that life has placed before us", and ended the speech with the revolutionary slogan often used by Mr Castro: "Forever onward toward victory! We will be victorious! Until my return!"
Reuters spoke to Teodoro Petkoff, who runs the opposition newspaper Tal Cual, about the implications: "For the Republic, the best thing that can happen is for the president to recover and to take over full governance, so that the natural political process can evolve, which is to carry out elections next year."