Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chávez returns to Cuba for more surgery

"No one should get alarmed - and no one should rejoice"

Since last fall various sources have reported that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is in rapidly deteriorating health and is unlikely to survive until his country's Oct. 7 presidential election, in which he is an announced candidate. Chávez was diagnosed with cancer early last year, had surgery in Havana in June 2011 and then returned to the island for multiple rounds of chemotherapy, after which he pronounced himself completely cured. But last month the Spanish newspaper ABC, claiming access to Dec. 30 medical reports, said that Chávez had but a nine month life expectancy unless very aggressive procedures were undertaken at once (

The president himself has never acknowledged the exact nature of his illness. ABC claims that an original prostate cancer, first discovered in January 2011, later metastasized to his bones and spinal cord. It also says that Chávez, 57, has a tumor in his upper colon. That's likely the reason for his planned surgical visit to Cuba, which he'll undertake in a few days. As if all that were not enough to deal with, last week a Miami newspaper reported the cancer has spread to his liver. Removal of the colon tumor may be pointless at this stage.

In Caracas yesterday Chávez was his usual chipper self, downplaying the impending event which he referred to as the "removal of a small non-cancerous lesion" (carefully avoiding the word tumor). Denying that his days are numbered, the president told state media, "No one should get alarmed -- and no one should rejoice -- because apart from my personal destiny, I've ignited this (Venezuelan) revolution, and nobody nor anything can stop it."

There's little doubt for which death bed watchers "no one should rejoice" was intended.

Update Feb. 28: Venezuelan authorities announced today that Chávez came through surgery earlier this week in good condition, that a "pelvic lesion" was completely removed "without complications," and that there is no indication of disease in "adjacent organs."

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