Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez 'has cancer surgery in Cuba'

President Hugo Chavez seen before boarding a plane to Cuba on 24 February
Image caption President Chavez has been in office for 13 years

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in "good physical shape" after undergoing planned cancer surgery in Cuba, Venezuela's vice-president says.

A lesion in Mr Chavez's pelvic region was completely removed, vice-president Elias Jaua said.

Mr Chavez, 57, had two operations to remove a cancerous tumour from the same area last year.

His renewed ill-health comes months before he is due to stand for re-election in October.

The exact nature and extent of Mr Chavez's illness has never been made public, leading to persistent rumours that his health is worse than officially acknowledged.

'No complications'

Cheers broke out in Venezuela's National Assembly when Vice-President Jaua announced that the surgery had been successful.

"A total extraction of the diagnosed pelvic lesion was performed, also removing the tissue surrounding the lesion," Mr Jaua said.

He added that there were "no complications" and Mr Chavez was stable and "recovering adequately" from the operation.

Mr Jaua did not say if the lesion was malignant, or when the president would return to Venezuela.

Mr Chavez said the growth was probably malignant before he travelled to Havana on Friday.

The Venezuelan leader had surgery and four rounds of chemotherapy in Cuba last year after a baseball-sized growth was detected in his pelvic region.

In October, the president had said he was free from cancer, but last week announced he would require another operation.

Mr Chavez's surgery comes at a critical time, as he prepares to campaign for re-election for another six-year term.

His challenger in October's election is Henrique Capriles Radonski, a state governor who won an opposition primary earlier this month.

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