Venezuela's Chavez heads to Cuba for medical treatment
By Brian Ellsworth and Deisy Buitrago
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will travel to Cuba on Tuesday for medical treatment, following a nearly two-week absence from the public eye, months after undergoing cancer surgery on the communist-run island.
Chavez, 58, staged what appeared to be a remarkable comeback from an undisclosed type of cancer diagnosed in June 2011. In October, he won re-election following a campaign that was much more subdued than his previous bids.
In a letter to Congress, Chavez said he would receive a form of therapy known as hyperbaric oxygenation, which is often used for the prevention and treatment of bone decay caused by radiation therapy, according to the American Cancer Society.
Chavez has not appeared in public in 12 days. The absence is unusual for a leader who routinely chats for hours during live broadcasts, and suggests his health has weakened since the campaign.
"Six months after I completed the last radiation therapy treatment, it has been recommended that I begin a special treatment consisting of various sessions of hyperbaric oxygenation," Chavez wrote in the letter, which was read by congressional leader Diosdado Cabello.
"Together with physical therapy, (this) will consolidate the process of strengthening my health."
The letter did not mention cancer.
Hyperbaric oxygenation therapy, also known as HBOT, involves breathing pure oxygen while in a pressurized chamber. Continued...