Chávez set on 2012 re-election bid despite cancer

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez vowed on Monday to win re-election next year, saying his struggle with cancer is helping to strengthen his political movement.

Chávez said in a telephone call on state television that his illness has boosted his resolve ahead of the 2012 vote.

“I think my sudden and grave, well, delicate illness has been a test,” Chávez said. “What I smell in the revolutionary ranks is more unity in the government, commitment.”

Chávez, who earlier this month appealed for unity before traveling to Cuba for cancer treatment, also said he doesn’t see any divisions in the military.

“The Armed Force is there demonstrating firmness, loyalty, strength,” Chávez said in his call to an evening talk show.

Some analysts have suggested divisions could grow among Chavez’s allies if his illness worsens.

“This revolution is continuing onward … and I will remain at the front,” Chávez said. “I don’t have any doubt that I’m going to be the candidate, and I don’t have any doubt that the people are going to re-elect me president from 2013 to 2019.”

Chávez extended that timeframe in an interview published Monday in the government newspaper Correo del Orinoco, saying: “I’m resolved to reach 2031.”

The leftist president has been in office since 1999 and is seeking another six-year term. He has suggested in the past that he hopes to keep winning re-election to remain president for many years to come. He has vaguely mentioned various dates, ranging from 2021 to 2031.

A poll released last week said Chávez’s public approval rating remains at 50 percent and hasn’t significantly varied since his cancer diagnosis.

Chávez completed his first phase of chemotherapy in Cuba last week. He has said he is now waiting for additional phases of chemotherapy but has not said how soon the treatments would resume.

Chávez underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor, which he has said was the size of a baseball. He hasn’t said what type of cancer he has been diagnosed with or specified where exactly it was located, saying only that it was in his pelvic region.

Chávez, who turns 57 on Thursday, said he plans to celebrate his birthday in Venezuela.

He said after his return from Cuba to Venezuela on Saturday night that thorough tests found no signs that any cancer cells have reappeared.

Chávez spoke twice in phone calls to the state TV channel on Monday, saying his cancer treatment is going well but that he is under strict orders from his doctors to limit his agenda.

Turning to politics, Chávez said he sees a battle within the opposition looming as various candidates have announced plans to compete in a primary vote in February.

“They talk about a unity that really doesn’t exist, and they’re going around tossing knives at each other,” Chávez said. — Sapa-AP

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