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Chavez allies dismiss reports of cancer

By the CNN Wire Staff
After speculation that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has prostate cancer, an ally denied it.
After speculation that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has prostate cancer, an ally denied it.
  • "I would be the first to tell the country," the head of the National Assembly says
  • Media reports and online posts speculate that Chavez has prostate cancer
  • Venezuelan officials say the claims are based on rumors planted by political opponents
  • Most official reports say Chavez is "recuperating satisfactorily," but provide few details
  • Hugo Chavez
  • Venezuela
  • Politics

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- A close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denied media reports that the South American leader has prostate cancer.

"I would be the first to tell the country," said Rep. Fernando Soto Rojas, head of the National Assembly and a member of Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela.

Speculation has surged in media reports and online posts since officials announced that doctors in Cuba performed emergency surgery on Chavez to treat a pelvic abscess more than two weeks ago.

Last week, unnamed U.S. intelligence sources told El Nuevo Herald -- the Spanish-language sister paper of The Miami Herald -- that Chavez was in critical condition. Reports from other media, including The Wall Street Journal, have raised the question of whether Chavez has prostate cancer.

Most official reports since Chavez's June 10 surgery sum up the situation with the same phrase, saying Chavez is "recuperating satisfactorily" in Cuba.

But several government officials went on the offensive over the weekend, saying many media reports about Chavez's health were based on rumors planted by political opponents.

In a Twitter post Saturday, Venezuelan Vice Foreign Minister Temir Porras said Chavez's enemies should "stop dreaming."

"The only thing that has metastasized is the cancer of The Miami Herald and the rest of the right-wing media," he said.

In a telephone interview June 12, Chavez told Telesur his operation had been "very successful."

Chavez has been seen in photos -- pictures of him posing with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Cuban President Raul Castro were published in state media -- but his normally frequent live television appearances have been absent from Venezuelan airwaves.

Lawmakers in Chavez's party have supported his decision to govern from Havana.

But the former chief justice of Venezuela's Supreme Court questioned that assertion.

"Even though officials from his party and the National Assembly insist that he is the president and he rules from any part of the world, constitutionally he is in a temporary absence, and this temporary absence has to be supplemented by the vice president," Cecilia Sosa Gomez said.