Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, preparing to travel to Cuba for further cancer surgery, Saturday named Vice President Nicolas Maduro to carry out his legacy if he is unable to remain in office.
Chavez, who spoke in a national television and radio address, said he requires more surgery after malignant cells were detected in the same area as his previous cancer during health exams held over the past month in Cuba. The National Assembly Sunday approved his request to be absent from the country for more than five days as he travels to the Caribbean island.
"There is risk in this process that you can't deny," said Chavez, who won re-election to a third six-year term on Oct. 7. "If something happens that disables me some way, my irrevocable opinion is that you should elect Nicolas Maduro as the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."
Under Venezuelan law, if Chavez is too ill to carry out his duties, the vice president would take over until the beginning of the new presidential term on Jan. 10.
If Chavez is unable to attend the inauguration scheduled on that date, the president of the National Assembly would assume power while elections are arranged within 30 days. If he does take office and then becomes too ill within the first four years of the term, the vice president takes over the presidency for 30 days while elections are held.
"He put an end to the speculation and intrigue going on about succession," Russ Dallen, the head bond trader at Caracas Capital Markets, said Saturday in an e-mailed response to questions. "He names Maduro as his successor and says people should vote for him -- not the words of a man that is sure he is going to live long or even be back for the inauguration on the 10th."
The former paratrooper, who last left for Cuba on Nov. 27 to aid his recovery from an unspecified form of cancer, disappeared from public view from Nov. 15 until his return to Venezuela early Dec. 7. Unlike previous convalescences, the self-declared socialist didn't make use of his Twitter account or call into television programs.
"They told me the surgery should have been yesterday or this weekend, but I told them I had to return to Venezuela," Chavez said. "I need to return to Havana tomorrow and am sending a request to the National Assembly."
Chavez, 58, has undergone three surgeries to remove two tumors since June 2011. Venezuelan law requires the president to seek permission from the National Assembly for any absence longer than five days. He first told Venezuelans he had cancer in June 2011 after undergoing surgery in Cuba to drain an abscess from his pelvic area during which he said doctors discovered a baseball-sized tumor in the same area.
The tumor was excised in a subsequent operation, Chavez said, without specifying the exact location or type of cancer.
After four bouts of chemotherapy, he returned to Cuba in February for a third operation after his medical team discovered a second tumor and underwent several rounds of radiation therapy over the following months. In July he said he was "free, totally free" of illness, echoing comments he made in October 2011 after completing chemotherapy treatment.
"Starting out the year with a recurrence, which was treated effectively, we finished radiation treatment in May, several days before I registered as a candidate for the elections," Chavez said. "If they had found anything negative then, you can be sure that I would not have stood for re-election."
Chavez sang folk songs and quoted Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges during the half-hour broadcast that ended at 10:10 p.m. local time. Venezuelans gathered Sunday in plazas and parks across Venezuela Sunday to show support for Chavez, state television channel VTV reported.
"In any circumstance, we should guarantee the progression of the revolution," said Chavez. "But this is how life goes. God willing, I hope to be able to give you good news in the coming days." Since coming to power in 1999, Chavez has taken inspiration from ex-Cuban President Fidel Castro, built homes and medical clinics for the poor, nationalized more than 1,000 companies or their assets and built an alliance stretching from Iran to Nicaragua.
His 21-day silence over the past month helped extend a 44.7 percent advance this year in Venezuelan dollar bonds, as investors speculated that he would not be able to complete his third term. Average yields on the South American country's dollar debt fell to 9.4 percent on Dec. 6, the lowest since February 2008, after rising as high 11.51 percent after Chavez was re-elected on Oct. 7, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. EMBI Global Index.
National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, who spoke on state television yesterday, said that the South American country's military was behind Chavez and that the political opposition should not try and take advantage of the situation. He said Chavez's cancer will not disrupt gubernatorial elections set for Dec. 16.
"Even the opposition should be praying that Chavez gets better. He is the guarantee of peace in the country," he said.
Chavez will remain president and head of state while he is in Cuba, Cabello said Sunday in a speech to the National Assembly broadcast on state television.