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Chavez Cancer Surgery Continues in Cuba, Villegas Says

Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is still in surgery today to treat an unspecified form of cancer, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said.

“The medical team attending commander Hugo Chavez, president of the republic, is continuing the operation,” Villegas said in a national television and radio address. The president is “demonstrating absolute confidence that he will conquer the obstacles that have emerged on life’s path.”

Chavez named longtime ally Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who has close ties to Cuba as his heir apparent before travelling to Cuba for a fourth operation in 18 months. The self-declared socialist urged Venezuelans to vote for Maduro in the event he’s unable to remain in office.

Earlier today, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Chavez was undergoing surgery “this instant,” according to Marco Antonio Bravo, an official at Ecuador’s Communications Secretariat. Correa spoke during a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Bravo said by telephone.

Correa made a one-day visit to Cuba yesterday to wish Chavez luck in his battle against cancer. On his arrival in Quito at about 2:30 a.m. local time today, Correa said Chavez is in “great spirits.”

“We came to give him a hug in the name of the people of Ecuador,” Correa said in comments published in his official gazette. “Hugo Chavez is not alone in this fight.”

The government will continue to provide updates on Chavez’s health as the situation evolves, Villegas said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Charlie Devereux in Caracas at cdevereux3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.

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