Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez, 58, announced Saturday night on state television that his pelvic cancer had "returned" and that he is heading to Cuba on Sunday to undergo surgery in the coming days. Chavez had most recently traveled to Havana on Nov. 27, reportedly to undergo medical treatement that included hyperbaric oxygen, which is meant to heal tissues that have been damaged by radiation treatment.
Chavez said on television that after his re-election on Oct. 7, tests had not shown a sign of cancer, but he had been experiencing swelling and pain. "It's a very sensitive area, so we started to pay a lot of attention to that," he said, adding that during his last trip to Cuba, tests detected the resurgence of "malignant cells."
The planned surgery will be his third. Chavez first underwent surgery in Cuba in June 2011, and had a follow-up surgery last February, also in Havana.
Chavez made another important announcement - the first of its kind since he fell ill - he announced Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his successor. "We should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution," said Chavez, whose decision to skip a summit of leaders in Brazil on Friday provided clues that the cancer had returned.
Chavez's most recent TV appearance is his first after a three-week hiatus from public view.
"I hope to give you all good news in the coming days," said Chavez, holding a crucifix. "With God's will, like on the previous occasions, we will come out of this victorious."
Video of Chavez's speech is available in Spanish via Noticiero Digital.