Chavez to go again to Cuba for radiotherapy

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will be traveling to Cuba again Saturday to undergo a third round of radiotherapy in the hope of beating his cancer diagnosed last year.

"Tomorrow night I will again fly to Cuba to continue my battle for my life and health," the Venezuelan leader told state television on Friday.

Chavez made the announcement after spending some time with family members in his native state of Barinas in the west of the country.

He said he will meet with Vice President Elias Jaua, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and other members of the cabinet before the departure.

Chavez, 57, who is facing a tough re-election fight this year, is expected to complete five weeks of radiation treatment in Havana, but return home for brief periods during that time.

He completed the first two rounds of treatment in Havana, where he had surgery last month to remove a malignant tumor in the same area where another tumor was excised in June 2011.

Officials in Caracas have never specified the type of cancer the president has, but insist it has not spread to other organs.

However, Chavez broke into tears Thursday when he went to church in Barinas accompanied by his parents, children and other family members. He explained later that emotions caused by the proximity of his loved ones had overwhelmed him and he could not hold back tears.

"It was a spontaneous, sentimental thing," Chavez said on Friday. "My father and mother stood next to me. And suddenly we took each other's hands. My mom gave me her hand with such tenderness, and dad gave me his ... And because of this tears rolled down my face."

His prior stay in Havana lasted exactly five days, allowing him to head off criticism that he had left Venezuela without permission from the National Assembly, which must authorize a president's absence if it exceeds that length of time.

The cancer comes at an awkward time for Chavez, who is in the thick of what is expected to be a tough reelection campaign. He has ruled out the possibility of a replacement candidate.

Chavez faces a stiff challenge from 39-year-old state governor Henrique Capriles, who was chosen to represent a unified opposition in primaries earlier this year.

Some 18 million Venezuelans will be eligible to vote in the October ballots.

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