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Venezuela's Chavez seeks to return to Cuba for cancer treatment

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Chavez optimistic in cancer fight
  • NEW: Chavez says he could leave Venezuela as early as Saturday
  • He says he is seeking approval from congress for the trip
  • Chavez expects to begin chemotherapy within days
  • He has not disclosed what type of cancer he has
  • Hugo Chavez
  • Venezuela
  • Brazil
  • Cancer

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday he is seeking congressional approval to return to Cuba to continue cancer treatment.

Chavez, who is suffering from an undisclosed type of cancer, said this week that the next phase of his treatment could require radiation and chemotherapy.

He expects to start chemotherapy within days, Chavez said Friday.

He could leave Venezuela as early as Saturday to begin what he called the "second stage in this long and complex process of recuperation." It was not immediately clear how long the president planned to stay in Cuba.

"I have faith in God, in medical science ... in the people who have taken care of me and finally in myself," he said during a message broadcast on state TV. "We will continue along the path of recuperation."

Chavez spoke soon after meeting with Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala.

The Venezuelan leader made a surprise return to his country July 4 after spending more than three weeks undergoing medical treatment in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor.

Despite speculation that a frail Chavez could alter the political landscape in a country where his personality is so large, the president has made it clear he is still calling the shots, though he's under 24-hour medical supervision, he has said.

"I am in my barracks, but still commanding," Chavez said this week.

Still, critics and some analysts have questioned his ability to carry out his duties, particularly given that he is up for re-election next year. His expected absence from Venezuela will likely heighten those concerns.

Earlier Friday, Brazil's state-run news agency reported Chavez would travel to Brazil "in the upcoming days" to undergo cancer treatment. Chavez's comments cast doubt on that report.

CNN's Marilia Brocchetto contributed to this report.