Venezuelan leader returns to Cuba for treatment

Apr 1, 2012, 3:57 AM

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez traveled to Cuba on Saturday for another round of cancer treatment, saying he will be in Havana for several days and then return home.

Chavez boarded the presidential jet on Saturday night accompanied by one of his daughters. His aides and military chiefs saw him off at the airport.

He said during an earlier speech to supporters that he was traveling to Havana for a second round of radiation after recent surgery to extract a second cancerous tumor in his pelvic area. Chavez had another tumor removed from the same place in June.

The 57-year-old leftist president, in office since 1999, has vowed to overcome cancer to win another six-year term in the Oct. 7 election.

Chavez has not identified the type of cancer, nor the precise location where the tumors were located. He has said he is choosing to undergo treatment in Cuba because it’s where his cancer was originally diagnosed and where his surgeries have been carried out.

Chavez said that after his second round of five daily sessions of radiation, he expects to return to Caracas on Wednesday or Thursday. He has said he expects to be traveling to and from Cuba for the treatments in the next several weeks.

Before departing for Havana, Chavez reiterated claims that he believes opposition leaders might not accept the results of the October election if he wins, and that “they’re making plans to try to generate violence, to try to destabilize the country.” He did not provide evidence to back those claims.

Chavez has made similar accusations in the past, but this time he also warned bankers who sympathize with the opposition that if the government finds they have provided financial support to any such conspiracy, the government could nationalize their banks.

“Since I know there are private bankers supporting the opposition _ and with a lot of money _ be careful, private bankers,” Chavez said in a televised speech. “It’s one thing for you to support a democratic movement… and it’s something else for you to support destabilizing movements.”

Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles dismissed Chavez’s claims.

“We’re committed to accepting the will of the people,” Capriles told reporters. “What those accusations are intended to do is instill fear in the people.”

Capriles, a 39-year-old state governor, won a February primary to become the opposition’s presidential candidate.

A poll released Thursday said Chavez has a lead over Capriles, with nearly 45 percent of those polled saying they would vote for the president, as compared to 31 percent for Capriles.

About 25 percent said they didn’t know or didn’t answer in the survey by the Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis. The poll had a margin of error of nearly 3 percentage points.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Venezuelan leader returns to Cuba for treatment