Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said that he will have to undergo another operation after doctors in Cuba found a lesion in his pelvis where surgeons removed a large cancerous tumour last year.
"There is no metastasis. Just this small lesion in the same place where they removed the tumor," Chavez said on Tuesday during a televised tour of a factory in his home state of Barinas.
"Because of the growing rumors, I'm obliged to put forward the information now ... it's a small lesion, about two centimetres across, very clearly visible. This will need to be taken out, it needs more surgery."
The 57-year-old socialist leader said he had travelled to Havana for the tests on Saturday. Rumours of the unannounced trip had prompted a flood of speculation among the opposition and supporters that he was at death's door.
The announcement throws new uncertainty over the country's politics because the socialist leader is seeking re-election this year, hoping to extend his more than 13 years in power.
Chavez did not say when he would undergo the surgery, other than "in the coming days".
Chavez said the new surgery should be less complicated than what he underwent in Cuba in June, when doctors removed a tumour from his pelvic region. From July to September, he received four rounds of chemotherapy, both in Cuba and in Venezuela, and he has since said that tests show he is cancer-free.
On Tuesday, he denied rumours that the cancer had spread to his liver. He has never specified the cancer's exact nature or location.
In recent weeks, Chavez has recovered the hair that he shaved while undergoing chemotherapy and he has appeared vigorous, returning to his full schedule of activities, including marathon television appearances.
He has assured Venezuelans that he is in fine shape in the run-up to the October 7 election, when he will seek a new six-year term. But his health is the wildcard.
Although Chavez has insisted he was completely recovered, medical experts said it is too soon to make such a call.
The opposition is newly united behind one candidate - youthful state governor Henrique Capriles - and see the vote as their best chance to end Chavez's 13 years in power.
Recent opinion polls have given Chavez an edge over Capriles, thanks partly to a huge programme of new state spending on social projects.
But about a third of Venezuelans remain undecided, and competition for their votes will be intense.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|