Chavez faces cancer surgery in Cuba, vows he'll be back
By Andrew Cawthorne and Brian Ellsworth
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba on Monday for cancer surgery, with a vow to return quickly despite conceding for the first time that the disease could end his 14-year rule of the South American OPEC nation.
"I leave full of hope. We are warriors, full of light and faith," the ever-upbeat Chavez said before boarding the flight to Havana. "I hope to be back soon."
Chavez, 58, pumped a fist in the air as he set off for the latest chapter of a tumultuous rule that has included a brief coup, persistent acrimony with the United States and frequent nationalizations, as well as wildly popular anti-poverty programs.
The socialist president first suffered an undisclosed form of cancer in the pelvic region in mid-2011. He had appeared to improve and easily won re-election in October but now faces a fourth round of surgery for a second cancer recurrence in the same area.
The news sparked a rally in Venezuela bonds on Monday, given many investors' preference for more a business-friendly government in Caracas.
Chavez stunned Venezuelans over the weekend with his nationally televised announcement that more malignant cells had been found, despite twice having declared himself cured.
END OF AN ERA?
Chavez's re-election in October was helped by heavy government spending on social programs and his intense emotional connection to followers who view him as a larger-than-life figure. Continued...