Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Cuba on Monday for surgery and treatment of cancer, having been greeted by Cuban President Raúl Castro. President Rafeal Correa of Ecuador was also on hand to offer his support, as reported by The New York Times.
Back in Venezuela, Chavez’s supporters pray for his health. The malignancy was discovered on Saturday and is believed to be the return of an aggressive form of cancer. The President has complained of acute pain and, on Saturday, legislators unanimously gave approval for Mr. Chávez to travel abroad for treatment. In light of the situation, Mr. Chavez has named a successor in Vice President Nicolás Maduro, asking his supporters to transfer their support to Maduro. Chavez noted that he might not be able to continue as the nation’s leader if his health continued to deteriorate.
Chavez has been treated before for cancer, back in June of 2001, but he has refused to reveal details about his illness, such as what kind of cancer it is and where it was found. U.S. experts say that since this recurrence has happened so fast, the President’s prognosis is not good. The 18 month timeline is indicative of the cancer’s aggression. Chavez has already had two surgeries and undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment. This new surgery is likely to be for relief of symptoms more than an attempt at a cure or remission, experts say.
“My guess would be, if he’s had several surgeries and at least one extended course of chemotherapy and some radiation, it’s probably bad,” he said. “Usually, our opportunity to cure people of cancer comes with the first one or two things we do, and after that it’s just controlling the disease,” remarked Dr. Edward W. Greeno, medical director for oncology services at the University of Minnesota.
Two months ago, Mr. Chavez was re-elected to another six-year term as Venezuela’s President, leaving his opponents in disarray. He is scheduled to be sworn in on January 10, but if he is too ill or incapacitated, things could change fast. If his illness incapacitates him in the first four years of his new term, new elections would be called for. The entire country, Chavez supporters and political foes, now hold their breath for the outcome of this latest recurrence of the President’s cancer.