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Chavez illness an issue for 2012 election
by Staff Writers
Caracas, Venezuela (UPI) Jul 14, 2011

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez faces tough choices as he awaits prolonged cancer treatment in the run-up to next year's presidential election in which he will seek a third six-year term.

Chavez, 56, announced his candidature at a supporters' rally in Caracas last November, a period marked by mounting economic problems resulting from the 2008-09 global economic crisis, drought, power failures and what critics called the populist leader's style of government.

In March, with news of the cancer still months away, Chavez urged voters to give him another chance, proffering apologies for "mistakes and miscalculations" of his 12 years in office.

He vowed to continue his Bolivarian socialist policies into the next term and to "bring up the younger generation in the spirit of devotion to socialist ideas."

All that seems in the distant past as emerging details of Chavez's illness prompt friends and foes alike to reassess the administration and Venezuela's future direction.

Chavez was roundly criticized by the opposition for keeping his illness secret during an 18-day stay in Cuba. He didn't reveal he had cancer until after several comments that played down the medical treatment he received in Cuba or the causes of his illness.

This week Chavez acknowledged for the first time he may need radiation therapy or chemotherapy as part of an ongoing treatment after cancer surgery in Cuba.

"I'm in the second stage of the disease, (going through) an organ-by-organ assessment and other factors, I mustn't give more details," Chavez told Venezuela's state television.

The next, third phase of treatment "could mean the application of radiotherapy or chemotherapy," a statement from the presidential office said. News media earlier speculated Chavez might have cancer of the colon or the stomach.

"Some people are saying that four parts of my colon were taken away, that part of my stomach was removed. Nothing like that has happened. It is cancer but not as some would like," Chavez said.

"I had a huge tumor. When I saw the picture, I thought 'My God.' It was almost as big as a basketball," he added.

By his own admission, Chavez has lost almost 31 pounds in the past month.

"I feel better than ever," he said.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff offered Chavez her support and expert help with medical treatment during a telephone conversation. Rousseff herself was treated for lymphoma at one of Brazil's advanced facilities, the Sirio Libanes Hospital in Sao Paulo, where another cancer sufferer, Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo underwent treatment.

Analysts said if Chavez accepted Rousseff's invitation to receive treatment he would need to hand over responsibilities to a caretaker administration and not attempt a repeat of his conduct in Cuba, when he remained technically in charge even when undergoing two surgeries, one of which lasted six hours.

Venezuela's opposition is waiting to see the outcome of the treatment. It has pledged to field a candidate after primary elections in February.

Opposition figures that have announced they will participate in the primaries include Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles Radonski, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and lawmaker Maria Corina Machado, who received the highest number of votes in last year's legislative elections.

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