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Hugo Chavez Chooses Successor Before Third Cancer Surgery

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has returned to Cuba, where he will undergo his third cancer surgery, just months after winning his fourth term as president. On Sunday, Chavez acknowledged the return of his cancer during a televised address, and suggested that Vice President Nicolas Maduro (pictured on the right) should be his successor should complications in his treatment arise.

“With the grace of God, we’ll come out victorious,” Chavez said with Maduro at his side. “There are risks. Who can deny it? In any circumstance, we should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution,” he said referring to his socialist movement modeled after Simon Bolivar, one of the country’s first leaders.

Maduro has severed under Chavez as a foreign minister since 2006, and shares an identical political agenda. Even with Chavez’s blessing, the Venezuelan constitution requires that a new election be held should Chavez not live to see the official start of his fourth term. Otherwise, Maduro would be the automatic replacement should the president’s term be cut short.

“In that scenario, which under the constitution would require presidential elections to be held again, you all elect Nicolas Maduro as president,” Chavez said on Saturday night. “I ask that of you from my heart.”

“One of the young leaders with the greatest ability to continue, if I’m unable to … continue with his firm hand, with his gaze, with his heart of a man of the people,” Chavez added.

Chavez had said earlier in the year that he was cancer free, but in the weeks following the October election he was scarcely seen in public. The type of cancer has never been specified, and throughout his battle with the disease information on his condition has been scarce. Due to his widespread support within Venezuela, his selection of a successor has raised concerns as to the government’s future.

“Fortunately, this revolution doesn’t depend on one man,” Chavez said, addressing those concerns. “Today we have a collective leadership.”

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