Venezuela's president says he will continue leading the country, even as he travels to Cuba to undergo new surgery to remove a potentially cancerous lesion.
Hugo Chavez said he will travel Friday to Havana and expects to have the surgery early next week. Speaking during a nationally televised cabinet meeting, the Venezuelan leader said he would return "with more energy, more enthusiasm, more happiness."
Chavez, who is seeking re-election later this year, has not specified how long he will need to stay in Cuba for treatment.
"I'm leaving Monday. I'm sure I'll be in Cuba for a few days. We don't know exactly how many days, but it won't be long, I'm sure. I'm leaving. Catching up on thing and leaving things in order, in the hands of [Vice President] Elias [Jaua], in the hands of you the people. And, well, we'll be in touch every day,'' said Chavez.
The 57-year-old president announced Tuesday doctors in Cuba had detected a two-centimeter lesion in his pelvis, where a tumor was removed last year. But he denied rumors he was seriously ill, saying his body shows no signs the cancer has spread. He said doctors do not yet know if the new lesion is malignant.
Last year, Chavez had two operations and underwent chemotherapy in Caracas and Havana, though he has never specified exactly what kind of cancer he has. Since his treatments ended, the Venezuelan leader had been saying he was cancer free.
The president is seeking a third six-year term in October elections.
He was first elected in 1998, and then won elections in 2000 and 2006.
Chavez is a vehement critic of the United States and an ally of communist-ruled Cuba.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.