Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves revealed Friday that he is fighting cancer. Chavez, who's noticeably thinner and paler, urged his people to remain calm and assured he expects to recover.
Still, the admission shakes the landscape of the oil-rich country and raises uncertainty. There is no obvious successor for the 57-year-old leftist leader.
Thursday, Venezuelan officials cancelled a July summit of Latin American leaders, saying Chavez needed more time to recovery from surgery to remove a tumor.
The nation's Foreign Ministry explained that Chavez, due to host the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, was undergoing "very strict medical treatment" after having a pelvic abscess removed on June 10.
Before the recent revelation, there'd been speculation over Chavez's condition.
"President Chavez wasn't going to cancel such an important event if his health wasn't worse," Luis Vicente Leon, director of Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis, told Businessweek.
"This information amplifies the worries that already exist about the president's health and without a doubt will generate a significant increase in the rumors," Leon said.
To counteract the rumors, the government released a 20-minute video of Chavez meeting with Fidel Castro in Cuba, where he's recovering.
According to Vice President Elias Jaua, the footage proves Chavez is getting better.
"The president is in the process of recuperating, and he has a right to recuperate," Jaua told state television. "He has the right to take the time necessary to recuperate."