Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, has finally returned to the public eye, describing in a nationwide address that doctors had diagnosed him with cancer, following furious speculation about the true state of his health.
In his first live appearance since undergoing emergency pelvic surgery in Cuba on 10 June, Chávez said doctors had removed “cancerous cells” from his body. “This [is] the new battle that life has placed before us,” he said.
Flanked by a Venezuelan flag and a portrait of Simón Bolívar, the South American liberator, Chávez said he had committed a “fundamental mistake” in not taking better care of his own health. “I neglected my health and I was reluctant to have medical check ups. It was a fundamental mistake for a revolutionary,” he said, directing his speech “to the Venezuelan people and the international public opinion”.
Chávez slipped off the radar at the start of June when he embarked on a tour of South America and subsequently underwent emergency pelvic surgery in Cuba.
In his address, broadcast on national television, an unusually reserved looking Chávez who read rather than improvised his speech, said Cuban doctors had detected “a strange formation in the pelvic region” following the first round of surgery.
During a second operation they found “cancerous cells”, he said, without specifying which kind of cancer had been detected.
Normally a media animal, Chávez had all but disappeared since being admitted to hospital in Havana earlier this month, virtually abandoning his Twitter account and appearing only in the occasional photograph or video.
Later, Venezuelan vice president Elias Jaua said that Chavez is in “full exercise of authority” over the nation’s government as he recovers from cancer treatment in Cuba.