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Venezuela's Chavez to have another operation
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Analysis & Opinion
Pope Benedict wants to see Fidel Castro on Cuba trip: source
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrives with U.S. actor Sean Penn (2nd L, back) at Miraflores Palace in Caracas February 16, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Jorge Silva
By Daniel Wallis
Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:00pm EST
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday he would have to undergo another operation after doctors in Cuba found a lesion in his pelvis where surgeons removed a large cancerous tumor last year.
The 57-year-old socialist leader said he had travelled to Havana for the tests on Saturday. Rumors of the unannounced trip had prompted a flood of speculation among the opposition and supporters that he was at death's door.
"There is no metastasis. Just this small lesion in the same place where they removed the tumor," Chavez said during a televised tour of a factory in his home state of Barinas.
"Because of the growing rumors, I'm obliged to give this information now ... it's a small lesion, about 2 cm across, very clearly visible. This will need to be taken out, it needs more surgery, supposedly less complicated than before."
He said the next operation would take place in the coming days, but that it had not yet been decided where.
"No one should be alarmed ... I'm in good physical condition to face this new battle," he said. "It has to be verified whether there is any link with the previous tumor, or not."
Donning a bright red hard hat to stroll around the proposed site of the giant Veneminsk factory, Chavez had joked with workers and looked to be in reasonable health.
Earlier in the day, his information minister had denounced the report that Chavez had been rushed back to Havana for emergency treatment as part of a "dirty war by scum," launched by the opposition ahead of the October 7 election.
A prominent opposition-leaning Venezuelan journalist, Nelson Bocaranda, wrote on Monday that Chavez, who had two operations in Havana last June, had returned unexpectedly to Cuba and that some of his relatives were flying there too.
Chavez has insisted he is completely recovered, although medical experts say it is too soon to make such a call.
Chavez allies were scathing about Bocaranda after Chavez appeared on television. Deputy Foreign Minister Temir Porras joked on Twitter: "They'll have to take me for an emergency operation in Cuba. I'm dying of laughter!"
State media commentator Mario Silva said Bocaranda's "false teeth must have fallen out" when he saw the live footage.
Bocaranda said on Tuesday that an official Venezuelan plane had left Havana for Barinas overnight with the president's mother, sister, children and a Cuban medical team on board, and he denied he had ever wished Chavez dead.
The president's health is the wildcard in the run-up to the election, when he will seek a new six-year term.
The opposition is newly united behind one candidate - youthful state governor Henrique Capriles - and see the vote as their best chance to end Chavez's 13 years in power.
Recent opinion polls have given Chavez an edge over Capriles, thanks partly to a huge program of new state spending on social projects. But about a third of Venezuelans remain undecided, and competition for their votes will be intense.
One medical source close to the team treating Chavez in Venezuela said he had been suffering a tumor lysis, or cell breakdown, which carried symptoms including a high fever.
Before Chavez's reappearance on Tuesday, Venezuelan analyst Diego Moya-Ocampos had suggested his absence could well be a strategy by Chavez's campaign team to put the focus back on him and not Capriles, who since winning the opposition primary had been at the center of media and political attention.
He said the fact that the latest rumors had spread so fast just underlined the anxiety among supporters each time Chavez vanished from view for more than a couple of days.
Chavez apologized to his supporters on Tuesday, saying he knew the speculation about his health was upsetting.
"Always these rumors ... There are people who want me dead, who hate me so much," he said. "I am very sorry, because I know that while some people are happy, the majority are suffering."
(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Kieran Murray)
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