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26/07/2011 | Hugo Chávez defies illness to run for re-election in 2012

Reuters Staff

The Venezuelan president, recovering from surgery to remove a large tumour, has said he will seek another six-year term

 

The Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, will seek another six-year term in an election next year despite recent surgery to remove a cancerous tumour, he has revealed.

News that the 56-year-old socialist leader underwent an operation last month in Havana to remove a baseball-sized tumour has called into question his long-term health and his fitness to continue governing.

"I have medical reasons, scientific reasons, human reasons, reasons of love and political reasons to keep myself at the front of the government and the candidacy with more force than before," Chávez told the Correo del Orinoco newspaper in an interview. "On a personal level, I tell you I have never thought for even an instant of retiring from the presidency," he said.

Chávez returned to Venezuela on Saturday a week after leaving for chemotherapy in Cuba, saying no malignant cells had been found and that he was arriving home in better health than when he had left.

"They checked, organ by organ, taking tests to see if there had been metastasis, and they didn't find anything: the tumour was encapsulated," he told the newspaper, which splashed "Chávez to be candidate in 2012" across its front page.

A former soldier whose workaholic leadership style and charisma have helped him win many votes, Chávez is visibly weakened as he plans his re-election campaign for a poll scheduled to be held in December 2012.

Parliamentary elections last September showed Venezuela split between Chávez supporters and opponents. A fractious opposition coalition now senses a chance to unseat the convalescing president at the ballot box next year.

Chávez had two operations in Havana last month, and has said they were complicated. The first was for a pelvic abscess, the second to remove the tumour.

In the interview, Chávez recounted how the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, his close friend and mentor, told him in the hospital that last week's medical tests had discovered no malignant cells.

"He told me they found nothing. I have never heard such a short speech by Fidel," Chávez joked, adding that Castro "had happiness in his face" when he saw him off at the airport. "It was very different from how it was a month ago."

Earlier on Sunday, Chávez attended a function celebrating the 228th anniversary of the birth of his inspiration, Simón Bolívar.

After leading a group of ministers and dignitaries around the home where Bolívar was born, he spoke for almost an hour in a televised speech reminiscent of the time before his illness, when he often held forth for several hours a day.

"One has to have a good spirit," he told the Correo del Orinoco. "This body, of nearly 57 years, is responding well."

The Guardian (Reino Unido)

 


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