Hugo Chavez kisses a crucifix as he sits with ministers during a televised radio interview in Caracas (Presidencia/AFP)I wonder if he smells sulfur.
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Chavez acknowledged the seriousness of his health situation in a televised address Saturday night, saying for the first time that if he suffers complications Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement.
The 58-year-old president is still scheduled to be sworn in for a new six-year term Jan. 10. He has been in office for nearly 14 years, since 1999.
"There are risks. Who can deny it?" Chavez said, seated at the presidential palace beside Maduro and other aides. "In any circumstance, we should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution."
Chavez, who won re-election on Oct. 7, said he would undergo the operation in Havana in the coming days. Lawmakers on Sunday unanimously agreed to grant him permission to leave the country for treatment. The time of his departure was uncertain.
During a televised session, opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly said they would approve Chavez's request to travel to Cuba but wanted constitutional procedures to be strictly followed. Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges criticized the lack of information that has been revealed about the type and location of the cancer, saying: "Venezuela has a right to know the truth."
Throughout his treatment, Chavez has kept secret various details about his illness, including the precise location of the tumors and the type of cancer. He has said he travels to Cuba for treatment because his cancer was diagnosed by doctors there.
Some of the pro-Chavez lawmakers' voices cracked with emotion as they praised him and wished him a full recovery. Congresswoman Gladys Requena finished her speech shouting with emotion: "Onward, commander!"