Chavez returns to Cuba to begin chemotherapy

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has returned to Cuba to begin chemotherapy nearly a month after surgery to remove a tumor, and he is expressing optimism the treatment will help him survive his cancer.

Chavez said he would start the treatment in Havana on Sunday in an attempt to ensure cancer cells do not reappear following last month's operation.



"We're going to give it everything we've got," Chavez said in a televised speech shortly before he left Caracas on Saturday. He said there is always a risk cancer cells might show up again, "and therefore there's a need to attack hard through chemotherapy."



Chavez was accompanied by one of his daughters, Rosa, who held his hand as they boarded the presidential jet.



"It's not time to die. It's time to live," Chavez said. "I'm saying goodbye for some days, but in a deeper sense I'm not saying goodbye. ... I'll be attentive every day, every hour, every minute to internal events and I'll be in permanent contact."



The 56-year-old leftist leader made contingencies for his absence by delegating some of his duties to Vice President Elias Jaua and Planning and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani.



Chavez, who has held dominant power during more than 12 years in office, has refused opposition demands that he temporarily cede all his powers to Jaua while undergoing chemotherapy, but he said at a televised Cabinet meeting that he would hand off some administrative responsibilities. Chavez said his decision to entrust some of duties to aides was a result of "deep reflection" while coping with his illness.



He said the vice president would oversee budget transfers to government ministries, presidential commissions, any approved expropriations of businesses and other budget-related responsibilities. Giordani is to deal with matters including budget shortfalls and certain tax exemptions.



Chavez denied he was in any way ceding his functions as president.



He said that if his physical capacities were diminished in the future, "I would be the first in doing what the constitution says" in delegating his position to the vice president.



In a speech to party leaders and aides Saturday afternoon, he called for them to defeat any internal divisions, describing such conflicts as "cancerous tumors within the political body."



"Unity, unity, unity," Chavez said.



He repeated that message later as he addressed troops and supporters on the steps of the presidential palace. He announced new appointments for five generals, including the chief of his presidential guard, saying the moves were to "continue strengthening the unity of the Armed Force."



"Military unity, civilian unity. ... National unity. That's one of the greatest ways you can help me now," Chavez said. "I will return, and I'll return better than I'm going away."



Chavez spent much of June in Cuba undergoing surgeries to remove an abscess and the tumor. He made a surprise return from Cuba to Venezuela on July 4 and during nearly two weeks at home rallied supporters, addressed troops and generally sought to reassure Venezuelans that he is in control in spite of his illness.



Chavez said his June 20 surgery in Cuba removed a cancerous tumor the size of a baseball. He hasn't said what type of cancer he was diagnosed with nor specified where exactly it was located, saying only that it was in his pelvic region.



Chavez acknowledged on Wednesday for the first time that he expected to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment.



The National Assembly had to vote on Saturday to approve Chavez's trip to Cuba, and the issue raised a passionate debate in which opposition lawmakers said they supported the president's right to receive treatment but disputed his plan to remain in charge while in Havana.



Opposition politicians said they believed Chavez's request constituted a "temporary absence" and that the president owed the country a more detailed explanation of how serious his illness is.



"Let him go to Cuba," opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina said during the debate. "But we also demand compliance with the constitution ... so that he doesn't continue governing from Havana."



Under Venezuela's constitution, the vice president may take the president's place during temporary absences of up to 90 days, which the National Assembly may extend for 90 days more, for a total of about six months.



Pro-Chavez lawmaker Cilia Flores said the National Assembly was simply granting Chavez permission to be away for more than five days and that he would remain in charge.



As the session was under way, Chavez appeared on television and interjected himself into the debate. He appeared on a split screen with the lawmakers' listening, dismissing his opponents' arguments as "bordering on ridiculousness."



Chavez has said he is confident he will rebound but has also acknowledged a long road to recovery remains.



The president is up for re-election in late 2012, and he told members of his party on Saturday: "We have to obtain a great victory."



AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea