“He is facing a delicate situation, one of great uncertainty and everything points to an aggressive tumor,” said Carlos Castro, a Colombian oncologist and scientific director of the Colombian League Against Cancer. “I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few months we hear about a small lesion elsewhere in his body, in a lung, or in the liver. That’s called metastasis.”
Like Castro, Floriano Marchetti, a University of Miami professor who treats colon and rectal cancer, does not have direct knowledge of Chavez’s health. But Marchetti, too, has followed the president’s pronouncements about his fight with cancer, including the announcement last week that Cuban doctors would operate once more to remove what could be a malignant growth.
“The guy had surgery, he had chemotherapy and less than a year later he is having the same problem in the same area,” Marchetti said, speaking by phone during a break in an operation he was conducting in Miami. “That obviously is a bad prognosticating indicator.”
Facing reelection fight
Chavez, a 57-year-old leftist firebrand who has formed alliances with pariah nations ranging from Syria to Iran to Cuba, has been a political provocateur since he led a failed coup in 1992. But since June, questions about his health have dominated political discussions in oil-rich Venezuela.
That was when Chavez announced on national television that he had undergone two operations in Cuba that removed a baseball-size tumor. He never publicly disclosed what kind of cancer he had, nor the site of the original tumor.
The president later revealed that he had four chemotherapy sessions. He then pronounced himself cured of cancer and resumed a hard-driving campaign to secure victory in October’s presidential election, in which he faces a 39-year-old challenger, Henrique Capriles.
But then Tuesday, Chavez said Cuban doctors had detected “a lesion” with a high probability of being cancerous in the same spot where the first tumor had been removed.
On Thursday, his last full day in Venezuela before flying to Cuba, Chavez hosted an event for his staunch followers at a Caracas theater in which he described how Jesus Christ had come to him in a dream. “He told me, ‘Chavez, get up, it is not time to die, it is time to live,’ ” Chavez said.
Chavez also sounded contemplative, saying he was “preparing for the worst.” Speaking of the lesion, he said that “the possibility that it is malignant is greater than it not being” malignant.