HAVANA TIMES, Feb 23 — Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez was authorized today by the National Assembly (Congress) to leave the country for more than five days to undergo another operation in Cuba for a tumor, which he himself said could be malignant, reported dpa.
The request that Chavez presented to travel will allow him to leave on Friday morning for an indefinite period, according to leaders of his party. In the meanwhile, Chavez will retain all of his functions of government.
Chavez submitted a letter to the legislature for legal support for his request to leave the country. He said he expects to be in Havana for more than five days for another operation that is “necessary and urgent”.
The president said he is assuming this new challenge with even greater “firmness and fortitude,” while committed to his people and its Bolivarian Revolution.
Chavez said in the announcement about his new “lesion,” which is reported to be two centimeters in diameter, that it appears to be located in the same area of his body where he had surgery performed this past June to remove a cancerous tumor, a situation that caused concern among most Venezuelans.
Set to Win a New Battle
“I have the full assurance that we will win this battle too,” he said in the letter, adding that he was certain that he would return to take his place “in the forefront.”
Chavez is faced with this new operation as he was preparing for another election campaign, since he plans to seek reelection in the presidential elections set for October 7.
The legislature approved the request unanimously, with the support of votes from the opposition bloc, which supported the action emphasizing that government functions should be assumed by the vice president, Elias Jaua, during Chavez’s absence.
Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina said the caucus voted for the authorization of the trip, taking into account the “human” considerations.
“Also, for political reasons we wish him a speedy recovery, especially in this election year. We firmly believe that the change of government must take place with votes. But now what’s most important is the humanitarian reason. If he decided to continue getting his illness treated by the same doctors who I treated him previously, we are going to vote for the president to leave the republic,” said Marquina.
The legislator added that the opposition believes that during the time of the president’s absence, the exercise of the functions of government should be in the hands of the vice president, as he urged Chavez to delegate his functions.
Assembly president Diosdado Cabello said the debate over the roles of the Chavez government already took place last year, when the trip to Cuba was authorized for his first operation.
Optimism and Concern
The spokesman of the ruling bloc, Aristobulo Isturiz, said that just as the announcement of the new surgery caused concern across the country, now “we are certain that Chavez will come out on top of all of this.”
He said the president needed to leave the country since his first operation was in Cuba and because that’s where “subsequent examinations were able to identify this lesion.”
Chavez said on Tuesday that he will have to undergo a new operation due to a “lesion” in the same abdominal region that was operated on for cancer.
He denied having “metastasis” in his body, rejecting reports that emerged after his first operation last June and his subsequent cancer treatment using chemotherapy.
Chavez admitted that there is a chance that the new tumor is malignant.
The president, 57, was operated on in the middle of last year in Cuba for a tumor in his abdomen and was then subjected to chemotherapy treatment.
He had just resumed in November his packed agenda and political activity around his second re-election, which will be determined at the polls on October 7.
The last several days were devoted to attacking his electoral rival, the governor of Miranda State, Henrique Capriles, 39, after that office holder won the opposition primary on February 12.
Venezuela is Cuba’s leading trade partner and Chavez the leading political ally of Fidel and Raul Castro.