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Chavez Says He’s Going to Cuba for First Radiation Therapy

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he’ll leave for Cuba today to begin his first rounds of radiation therapy tomorrow as he tries to recover in time to campaign for a third consecutive term in October elections.

Chavez, speaking on state television, said he should return to Venezuela in the next few days after several sessions of radiation therapy, which will take place over four to five weeks. Doctors yesterday removed the final stitches from an operation in February, Chavez said at a meeting with ministers.

“We are intent on my full recovery from this disease that caught me off guard, as they say, so I can move forward and continue together with all of you,” Chavez, 57, said from the presidential palace, with flowers and a bust of his hero, South American liberator Simon Bolivar, in the background. “My recovery has been fast, progressive.”

The socialist leader, who had a second cancerous tumor removed from his pelvic area during an operation Feb. 26, says he’s fit enough to win another six-year-term after undergoing his third cancer surgery in eight months. Still, the former tank commander’s treatment of his illness as a state secret has fueled speculation his health is worse than he’s letting on.

Chavez has not disclosed what type of cancer he has. Chavez returned from Cuba last week following the surgery and a three-week convalescence on the communist island.

Chavez said that doctors in Cuba on Feb. 26 removed a two-centimeter “lesion” from the same area where a larger tumor was removed in June 2010. Doctors determined it was probably a malignant recurrence that hasn’t spread to other parts of his body, Chavez said.

Chavez and opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski are locked in a statistical tie, according to one poll. Chavez was supported by 46 percent of those surveyed in the poll by Caracas-based Consultores 21 taken between March 3 and March 13, while Capriles had 45 percent. The poll used a sample of 2,000 people with a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points, Consultores 21 Vice President Saul Cabrera said in a phone interview.

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