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Chavez to return to Cuba for cancer treatment

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Nelson Quinones, CNN
updated 10:27 PM EDT, Fri April 6, 2012
Cuban President Raul Castro, left, greeted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his arrival in Cuba last week.
Cuban President Raul Castro, left, greeted Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his arrival in Cuba last week.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • He will meet with his Cabinet before he leaves Venezuela again, he says
  • The Venezuelan president says he is recovering from cancer
  • Speculation has abounded about his health and political future
  • Doctors have operated on him twice to remove cancerous tumors

(CNN) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will fly to Cuba Saturday night to continue cancer treatment, he said Friday.

Chavez, speaking by telephone from Caracas with state-run VTV, had returned Thursday morning from his latest round of treatment on the island.

He will meet with members of his Cabinet before he leaves Venezuela again, he said Friday.

The announcement came a day after an emotional Chavez discussed his struggle with illness, tearing up at times as he spoke Thursday night at a Mass in western Venezuela.

"Christ ... give me life, because I still have things to do for the people and this country. Do not take me yet," he said.

At a service in his home state of Barinas, Chavez described cancer as "a true threat that marks the end of the path for many people. The end of the physical path, that's the truth."

But Chavez said that he was recovering, adding that he had "much faith, much hope, much willpower to defeat this threat, as many people have, with the help of God and medical science."

He ended his sometimes somber, sometimes jocular remarks at the Holy Thursday Mass with what he said was his message for God.

"Give me your crown, Christ, give it to me. Let me bleed. Give me your cross, 100 crosses, so I can carry them. But give me life, because I still have things to do for the people and this country," Chavez said. "Do not take me yet. Give me your cross, give me your thorns, give me your blood. I am prepared to carry it. But with life, Christ. Amen."

The 57-year-old president has not specified the type of cancer he is battling, and the government has released few specifics, fueling widespread speculation about his health and political future.

He had returned to Venezuela early Thursday after a second round of radiation treatment in Cuba.

Walking unaided, Chavez held court on the tarmac of the airport in Barinas, telling well-wishers who had gathered to welcome him that his treatment went well.

"So far, there has been no adverse reaction to the treatment; the body has assimilated it well," Chavez said. He was greeted by members of his family, government officials and supporters.

Until Thursday, Chavez had been in Cuba since March 31. Doctors in the Caribbean island nation have operated on him twice to remove cancerous tumors, Chavez has said.

Since the beginning of the year, Chavez has spent 34 days in Havana.

"All the tests I've undergone have given positive results suggesting physical recovery," he said Thursday on arriving at the airport.

The outspoken, flamboyant socialist leader has led Venezuela since 1999 and has pledged to run for re-election in October.

Venezuela's foreign ministry said Wednesday that Chavez spoke about his health in a lengthy phone conversation the day before with former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, who recently announced that his own cancer had gone into remission.

"President Chavez told his brother Lula that the treatment is going very well, and so is the political and economic situation of Venezuela," Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement summarizing the phone conversation.

CNN's Ana Maria Luengo-Romero and Journalist Osmary Hernandez contributed to this report.

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