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Venezuela’s Chavez News of Second Operation Provokes Opposition and Press Rumours

Mérida, February 22nd 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) –  Yesterday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he would require another operation, this time to extract a lesion from the pelvic region of his body. Opposition spokespeople and international press have speculated about the seriousness of the surgery, suggesting “uncertainty” before the presidential elections.

Chavez said that he would be operated on this weekend in Havana, Cuba, by the same doctors who extracted his cancerous tumour last June. The lesion is 2cm in diameter and was detected last Saturday during his four-monthly check up in Cuba.

The lesion has “high possibilities of being malignant,” he said, emphasising that there was no need to “be alarmed” and reminding Venezuelans that today he would continue with his “normal presidential agenda”. He clarified that he wouldn’t be active at his “normal rhythm” over the next few weeks.

“They will operate on me again, they’ll take the lesion out, they’ll verify if it’s related to the last tumour or not, and based on that we’ll inform [the public],” Chavez said.

Private Venezuelan press had speculated about the fact that Chavez had not being seen in public for a few days, and suggested his cancer was “spreading” and there was “metastasis”.  Reportero 24 said it had advanced to the liver.

Today, other private Spanish media, such as AFP and Univision, have talked about a “period of uncertainty before the elections” because of Chavez’s operation and speculated about a date change for the presidential elections, due on October 7 this year.

AFP also questioned Chavez’s use of the word “lesion” instead of “tumour” and misinformed its readers, saying he hadn’t announced when the operation would be.

The English private media have also misquoted the president; with AP saying “Chavez says his cancer is likely back” and that he has raised “serious doubts about whether he'll have the stamina for a successful re-election bid”.  The Wall Street Journal headlined with “Chavez plans to undergo new operation for cancer” and the New York Times also misquoted Chavez in its headline, writing “Chavez says his cancer shows sign of return”.

Opposition umbrella group, the MUD, released a press statement wishing Chavez a “successful operation” but also “demand[ing] transparency” and that he “tell the truth,” blaming rumours on the “lack of precise information”.

“There are people who want me to die, because they hate me... they have taken it on themselves these last few months to spread rumours...in order to create anxiety, and try to destabilise the country,” Chavez said yesterday on the public VTV television station during an inauguration of an industrial plant in Barinas state.

He called on Venezuelans to be “prepared to neutralise any attempts at violence in the country by the opposition” and explained, “We have an adversary ... who doesn’t believe in the constitution or in democracy, and that is subordinated to external orders,” referring to the relationship between the opposition and the United States government.

Minister for communication, Andres Izarra, said there was a “media based operation in place to harm the trust and faith of the people” in President Chavez, which, according to him, was what was behind the rumours around his health.

“Until the last day of my life I’ll live for you all, for my people,” Chavez said.  

Cuban doctors operated on Chavez last June, removing a baseball sized cancerous tumour. He then received four rounds of chemotherapy, and by October had confirmed that he was “free of cancerous cells and on the path to full recovery”. Tests showed no major negative side effects from the chemotherapy.

Since the operation, national private media has regularly quoted “experts” or people with “inside contacts” saying that the president has just “one year to live” or casting doubts on the real state of his health. In September the Miami-based El Nuevo Herald quoted unnamed sources claiming the president had been “rushed to an emergency room” and suffered kidney failure, was on dialysis, and had aplastic anaemia. Other media outlets repeated the story.

Published on Feb 22nd 2012 at 8.51pm