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Chavez Names Loyalist Heir as Venezuela Eyes Succession

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez named a longtime ally with close ties to Cuba his heir apparent as the cancer-stricken leader prepares for a potential departure after almost 14 years in power.

Chavez, in a nationwide address over the weekend, said he was throwing his “irrevocable, absolute” support behind Vice President Nicolas Maduro to lead his 21st century socialist revolution should he be unable to carry out his duties. Chavez made the comments before flying to Cuba before dawn today for surgery, his fourth in 18 months, to treat an undisclosed form of cancer that reappeared after winning re-election in October.