Chavez cancer surgery successful, Venezuela VP says

CARACAS , DEC 12 -

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's cancer operation in Cuba on Tuesday was successful, his vice president said, adding it was a complicated procedure that lasted more than six hours.

The third recurrence of the socialist leader's illness has thrown his 14-year-old presidency into jeopardy and upended politics in the South American OPEC nation.

"Once again, our comandante has shown his strength," Vice President Nicolas Maduro said in a broadcast on state TV, as members of the government alongside him applauded.

"We thank the Venezuelan people for all the love they dedicated so this operation ended correctly and successfully."

He said the post-operative phase would last several days, and they would update the public on the 58-year-old president's recuperation.

Chavez's surgery in Cuba, a close ally, was his fourth since mid-2011. Doctors found malignant cells again in his pelvic area soon after he won re-election in October, leading him to name a successor in case he has to step down.

Chavez had twice declared himself cured previously. But he retains hope of recovering in time for the January 10 start of his new six-year term in office.

He named Maduro on Saturday as a potential heir to lead his self-styled revolution in a nation of 29 million people with the world's largest oil reserves.

The move irked some in Venezuela's opposition, who say voters - not Chavez - would decide who follows him if he were forced to step down and an election was held within 30 days, as required under the constitution.

Posted on: 2012-12-12 09:14