Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is recovering after six hours of surgery for cancer today, his vice president said, while calling on the nation to pray for the leader’s health.
Nicolas Maduro, in a nationally televised address surrounded by members of the cabinet, said Chavez is convalescing following a “complex” operation, and will take a few days to recover.
“These have been several hours of worry, but the operation was carried out as planned and with success,” Maduro said.
The 58-year-old self-declared socialist named longtime ally Maduro, who has close ties to Cuba, as his heir apparent before traveling to the communist island for a fourth operation in 18 months. Chavez urged Venezuelans to vote for Maduro in the event he’s unable to remain in office.
Maduro said Chavez is being attended by Cuban and Venezuelan doctors and experts from other countries he didn’t name. Chavez’s family are by his bedside along with National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, he said.
Before departing for Cuba Dec. 10, Chavez said that rather than handing over power he was delegating and leaving the country in the “good hands” of Maduro. Chavez won re-election to another six-year term in October.
Under Venezuelan law, if Chavez is too ill to serve during the first four years of his term, the vice president assumes the presidency for 30 days while elections are held. If he can’t serve the final two years, the vice president can finish out the term. If Chavez is unable to assume power in an inauguration ceremony scheduled for Jan. 10, Congress President Cabello would assume power while elections are arranged.
Chavez first told Venezuelans he had cancer in June 2011 after undergoing surgery in Cuba to drain an abscess from his pelvic area during which he said doctors discovered a baseball- sized tumor in the same area. The tumor was excised in a subsequent operation, Chavez said, without specifying the exact location or type of cancer.
After four bouts of chemotherapy, he returned to Cuba in February for a third operation after his medical team discovered a second tumor and underwent several rounds of radiation therapy over the following months. In July he said he was “free, totally free” of illness, echoing words he said in October 2011 after completing chemotherapy treatment.
While the 58-year-old Chavez hasn’t yet ceded power, investors are increasingly convinced he will stand down. Yields on the dollar debt of South America’s biggest oil producer plunged to the lowest since November 2007 as investors bet a change in government would augur a reversal of nationalizations and currency and price controls that have stoked 18 percent inflation and driven away investment.
Maduro called on Venezuelans to unite and pray for their president and said they shouldn’t be deterred by the hatred “anti-imperialists” hold for Chavez.
“Comandante, we’re waiting for you here, you need to return,” Maduro said. “The sadness of the hour is giving us strength.”
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