Chavez heads to Cuba for cancer surgery

News from Cuba | Sunday, 26 February 2012

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez left Friday for Cuba where he will undergo a new surgery to remove a lesion found in the same spot where a cancerous tumor was removed last year.

Thousands of supporters lined up the highway from Caracas to the Simon Bolivar International Airport 25 kilometers in the north to send off the president before he boarded a flight to Havana at 1540 local time (2010 GMT).

Enroute to the airport, Chavez received salutes from the supporters who waved "get well soon" banners, national flags and threw flowers to him. Since he took power in February 1999, Chavez has remained highly popular among most Venezuelan people.

"I promise you that during these next hours I will fight like I know how to fight, for this life, that no longer belongs to me but which belongs to all of you," Chavez said in a brief statement before departure.

The surgery, to be performed by a team of Cuban medical experts, would target a 2-centimeter lesion that was detected last weekend in the exact same spot where Chavez had a pelvic cancerous tumor removed in June 2011, Cuban sources said earlier this week.

Ever since he was first diagnosed with cancer, Chavez has remained tight-lipped about what kind of cancer he has been treated for, and he has given no detailed information about when and where the surgery would be performed.

The 57-year-old president, who is seeking a 3rd term in the October elections, has remained upbeat about his prospects of beating the cancer. He received first cancer surgery in Cuba in June last year and went through four rounds of chemo-therapy after that.

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