President Hugo Chavez told Venezuelans Tuesday that a cancerous tumor has probably repapered and that he was doubtful if he still had the energy to run a successful re-election race, dropping hints for the first time that his reign at the front row of Latin American politics might be near its end.
Chavez denied rumors that the cancer had spread aggressively, but revealed that his doctors in Cuba had found a two-centimeter lesion in the same place where they removed a cancerous tumor last year, the Associated Press reported.
I'm not going to be able to continue with the same rhythm, Chavez told state TV, adding that he would travel to Cuba for further treatment.
Medical professionals have observed that a malignant tumor of that size would require extensive treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy.
He did not specify when he would be traveling to Cuba.
Venezuela is going to the polls in October to choose the next president. According to opinion polls, Chavez's approval rates are still above 50 percent and he holds the image as the savior of poor and downtrodden.
However, snapping at his heels is a younger, healthier and equally charismatic rival -- Henrique Capriles Radonski, the Governor of Miranda state. Radonski won the opposition nomination to fight Chávez by capturing the attention of the nation and mobilizing a grassroots level mass movement.
Chavez had undergone four rounds of chemotherapy between July and September last year and he had said medical reports showed the cancer had been cured. However, Chavez had never divulged more details about his ailment, including the location of the tumor.
If Chavez has to undergo another round of treatment before the elections, that could seriously undermine his candidacy as his bad health would be in stark focus.
Chavez will also have to factor in the renewed vigor among the disparate opposition groups in recent months. The lethargic opposition, which for years had been subdued totally by Chavez' towering personality, is finding its feet again. They indeed are smelling blood.
The charisma and authority that Capriles brought to the campaign have rekindled the hopes of the opposition, which so far had believed that Chavez was unbeatable.
Will Chavez fight back against the cancer that made an unwelcome return, as well as against a unified, vibrant and hopeful opposition?
He spurns theories that he is close to death, but admits that the prognosis is bad. He says he will rethink his personal agenda and take care of himself.
Is that an ominous sign?