Havana (CNN) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced late Saturday that his cancer has returned and that he will go to Cuba to undergo surgery.
Speaking during a televised address from the presidential palace, he said that if his health were to worsen, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should replace him.
It was the first time Chavez spoke publicly about the possibility of a successor — a shocking admission from a man who looms larger than life in Venezuela and in Latin American politics.
“It’s absolutely necessary, absolutely vital that I undergo a new operation,” said Chavez.
As he spoke, he repeatedly kissed a cross and at one point broke out into song.
“An operation like this, an illness like this, always carries risk,” he said. “If something were to happen that would incapacitate me, Nicholas Maduro should not only finish my term as the constitution requires … You should also elect Nicholas Maduro to be president.”
A special session of parliament will be convened Sunday morning to consider Chavez’s health and his pending trip to Cuba, Diosdado Cabello, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, said on state-run TV.