Hugo Chavez 'recovering' after surgery on pelvic area
Venezuelan authorities said President Hugo Chavez was in good condition on Tuesday after surgeons in Cuba removed a lesion from his pelvic area, where they cut out a cancerous tumour last year.
"The diagnosed pelvic lesion was totally extracted," said Vice President Elias Jaua in a broadcast speech, adding that surrounding tissue was also removed and there were "no complications" with nearby organs.
"President Chavez is in good physical condition," Jaua added.
Venezuelan officials have never specified the kind of cancer the leftist president has, but they have denied the cancer has spread to other organs.
Jaua said doctors will study the results of the latest operation to determine "the optimum way to treat the lesion."
Venezuelan Defense Minister Henry Rangel, speaking on official television, said the news was received "with extraordinary pleasure" by the armed forces.
Cuban state TV said Chavez was operated on successfully on Monday in the Center for Medical-Surgical Research (CIMEQ), Cuba's most modern hospital.
Chavez declared himself cancer-free last October, before announcing on February 21 that a small lesion had been discovered.
"Nobody can say right now that it is another malignant tumour," he said at the time, adding that "the likelihood that it is malignant is greater than that it is not."
The possible return of Chavez's cancer has cast doubt over his October 7 reelection bid, likely to be Venezuela's most closely contested presidential election in years.
Chavez, 57, who remains active as president while absent from Venezuela, has been in power since 1999.
The leftist firebrand now faces a strong challenge from 39-year-old Henrique Caprioles, who was chosen as the sole opposition candidate in a primary earlier this month.
Chavez has used Venezuela's vast oil wealth on popular social programs and to help his communist ally Cuba, as he courted anti-US allies from Iran to Libya.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, a Chavez ally, said "we are all very worried about Hugo's health, and God willing, everything will go well."
Correa said in Guayaquil that "for Venezuela, for Latin America, we need health for a leader like President Hugo Chavez."
In Washington, where the administration of President Barack Obama has long been at odds with Chavez, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs wished Chavez well.
"Everyone hopes he recovers and life moves on," Wendy Sherman said Tuesday.
"We obviously have a difference of views on how the future of Venezuela ought to be," she added.
Jaua's announcement came amid widespread speculation about Chavez's health.
Brazilian journalist Merval Pereira said on his blog that Chavez had had an exploratory laparotomy because the case "seemed more complicated" than expected. Brazilian and Russian doctors were on the medical team, led by Cubans, he wrote.
Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda wrote in El Universal that a Brazilian doctor travelled to Havana Sunday to take part in evaluating Chavez, and that a Russian specialist also helped by telephone.
WikiLeaks meanwhile published emails on Sunday from Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor including one from a Venezuelan source who said that Cuban doctors gave Chavez two years to live while the Russians believed he had less than a year due to improper medical equipment.
Citing a "well-connected source," the analyst wrote in December that Cuban and Russian doctors were disputing how to treat Chavez's cancer, which had supposedly spread into his lymph nodes and up his spine.
As during his initial cancer care in Havana last year, Chavez did not delegate power to Jaua as some opposition members sought.