Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez confirmed on Thursday he is a cancer patient. The controversial leader, who has been a thorn on the side of the United States for more than a decade, said from Havana, Cuba, that he had undergone a surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.

The Socialist leader with an acerbic tongue is due to contest a re-election in 2012. We will live and we will conquer. Until my return! Chávez said, according to Reuters. The news was greeted with a mixture of glee and sadness in the country.

His supporters in the poorer neighborhoods of Caracas were dismayed by the news but they offered him fulsome support, chanting, 'he is alive, he is alive.

However detractors said the news opens a window into alternative opportunities. This will lead to a transition of presidents. It's perfect ... because the revolution doesn't work, because socialism is a lie, an accountant was quoted by the Guardian.

The news of Chavez' ill health has shaken the political system he has dominated for more than a decade. CNN reported that the news has already set off a power struggle in the country. With no heir-apparent to Venezuela's presidency waiting in the wings, politicians are jockeying for power as President Hugo Chavez undergoes medical treatment in Cuba, the report said, citing analysts.

However, Chavez said on Thursday that he still remained in control of things and that he was in contact with leaders back home. He said he could still control the governance from Havana, the capital of his staunchest of allies.

The Opposition offered him support, wishing that Chavez returns to health as early as possible. For the Republic, the best thing that can happen is for the president to recover and to take over full governance, so that the natural political process can evolve, which is to carry out elections next year,” Teodoro Petkoff of the opposition newspaper Tal Cual, said, according Reuters.