Venezuela's Chavez says his cancer is likely back

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Venezuela President Hugo Chavez has raised serious doubts about whether he'll have the stamina for a successful re-election bid, revealing that he needs to return to Cuba to have a lesion removed that is probably malignant.

Chavez was meeting with top aides on Wednesday to plan for his absence while expressions of support poured in from his allies around the region.

Venezuela's foreign ministry said Chavez had received messages of concern from Presidents Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Francisco Mujica of Uruguay, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina.

Chavez told Venezuelans on Tuesday that doctors in Cuba had over the weekend found a two-centimetre (less than an inch) lesion is in the same place where they removed a cancerous tumour last year.

The socialist president, who hopes to extend his 13 years in power with another six-year term in the October 7 elections, said he will likely need radiation therapy. That will most likely mean being incapacitated in the coming weeks, though Chavez did not mention who might replace him during a temporary absence.

"I'm not going to be able to continue with the same rhythm," he told state TV in a telephone call last night, adding he would need to "rethink my personal agenda and take care of myself, confront what must be confronted."

Chavez, 57, did not say when he would depart for Cuba. He said he would attend to government business today, including signing papers and meeting with the Cabinet and military leaders.

His departure for Havana will be made "without haste," he said. "All in good time."

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