Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told his countrymen Thursday night that he underwent a “major” operation in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor.
In a speech televised from Cuba, Chavez, 56, said he underwent the surgery in the early hours of June 11 after abdominal pains during a visit with Fidel Castro prompted him to seek medical assistance from Cuban doctors. He said that after that operation “the presence of other formations” began to appear and exams confirmed the existence of an “abscessed tumor.”
“That made a second surgical intervention necessary that allowed for the complete extraction of that tumor,” he said, reading from a prepared text and standing at a podium in front of a portrait of his guiding light, 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar.
Chavez’s comments were his first about his condition since Venezuelan officials in the capital, Caracas, told the public that the populist leader had gone under the scalpel to remove a pelvic abscess. The government treated Chavez’s health like a state secret, which generated roiling speculation about the president’s health.