3 Jul 2011

Chavez has cancer: where now for Venezuela?

2:09 pm on 3 July 2011

Venezuela's army has dismissed concerns about political instability in the country after President Hugo Chavez's admission that he has had cancer surgery.

The army chief, General Henry Rangel Silva, says the country is calm.

He says Mr Chavez, who remains in Cuba - where he has been for more than three weeks now - after the operation, is "getting better" and is still in charge.

Speculation about Mr Chavez's health has been rife since he left Venezuela three weeks ago for what officials said was an operation on a pelvic abscess.

But in a speech on Thursday, the president - who has been in power for 12 years - revealed he had also had surgery to remove a cancerous tumour.

He added that he was determined to overcome his health battle and was now on the road to "full recovery".

No obvious successor

The BBC's correspondent in Caracas says his voice was much weaker than usual and he had visibly lost weight.

Venezuelans are still wondering if the president will return to the country in time for bicentennial celebrations scheduled for Tuesday. But in the longer term, his ill-health calls into question his chances of being re-elected for another six-year term in 2012.

His time spent recuperating out of the public eye has highlighted how much government is centred on him and how he lacks an obvious successor.