Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced on national television Saturday night that he is returning to Cuba for an operation because his cancer has returned.
His speech was broadcast from the presidential palace and during the speech, he spoke for just the first time about a successor if the cancer incapacitates him. He told viewers that if he is unable to continue as the president due to his illness, then the current Vice President Nicolas Maduro should become president.
Chavez’s admission was shocking from someone who has been viewed as larger than life to many in Venezuela and in politics throughout Latin America. He said his surgery was absolutely necessary and essential. While he spoke, he often times paused to kiss a cross he was holding and at one point, he even broke out in song.
Chavez said that due to the risk of his cancer and his upcoming operation, he wanted the people of the country to know that Maduro should finish his term if he were to be incapacitated. The constitution of Venezuela says if the president can no longer handle his duties then a successor must be elected within a 30-day period.
Sunday morning the parliament in Venezuela will hold an emergency session to discuss their president’s sickness and his trip. The constitution requires the parliament to give approval for the president to leave Venezuela if he is going to be gone longer than five days.
Chavez returned Friday to Venezuela after spending 10 days in Cuba for treatment. That is when doctors found more malignant cancer cells, said Chavez. He said doctors wanted him to have surgery last week when they found the cells, but he preferred to return to Venezuela first to let his people know what was happening.