Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez admitted he has cancer in a 15-minute state television address on VTV Thursday night.
Rumors about his deteriorating health and the possibility of prostate cancer had been circulating in Venezuela and outside the country, but the leader and his officials had previously denied them.
In the address from Cuba, Chavez announced that he traveled to Havana in early June to have an operation to remove a pelvic abscess. This has been the official line. However, Chavez added that the doctors also detected cancerous cells and then operated on him a second time to remove a cancerous tumor, the New York Times reports.
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“This has been a slow and careful process of diagnosis, of advances and discoveries at various stages,” Chavez reportedly said during the unusually short address. “They confirmed the existence of a tumorous abscess, with the presence of cancerous cells, which required a second operation to completely extract the said tumor.”
This was the first address to his nation after nearly three weeks of silence, Al Jazeera reports. His sudden departure from the public view and then the canceling of a regional summit to be held in Venezuela had fueled speculation about possible cancer.
Chavez did not say what kind of cancer he has. He also did not say when he will return to Venezuela or name a temporary leader.
He said he was continuing treatment, but he did not explain what that entails, CNN reports.
After he finished, Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua appeared on state television, it states.
"There is no time for sadness, but time for reflection, for courage and for work," he said. "Unity is what is required at this time."
The president's announcement has shaken up politics in Venezuela, Reuters reports. He has no obvious successor in his party, and his absence is likely to cause infighting. The opposition, it states, will hope to benefit from the situation.