Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was undergoing
cancer surgery in Cuba on Tuesday, Ecuadorian President Rafael
Correa, a close friend, said.
"He is being operated on at this very moment," Correa said as he opened a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the Ecuadorian town of Tulcan.
Correa said he had found Chavez to be "in good spirits" after visiting him in Havana on Monday.
Chavez, 58, was being treated in Havana for an unspecified form of pelvic cancer, the fourth such operation in 18 months.
Before leaving for Cuba, Chavez for the first time spoke publicly of a successor, saying Vice President Nicolas Maduro, 50, should replace him for the remainder of his term if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further."
"It is absolutely necessary that I undergo another operation because new malignant cells have been found. I have to return to Havana," he said over the weekend.
"With God's favour, we will move forward and win," he said.
Chavez, who has governed Venezuela since 1999, won the October 7 presidential election with 55 per cent of the vote and is due to start a further six-year mandate on January 10.
He has never said precisely what form of cancer is affecting him.
He had already spent nine days in Cuba for hyperbaric oxygen therapy to strengthen his bones after several rounds of chemotherapy and radio therapy, and had only returned to Venezuela on Friday.
Chavez underwent cancer surgery in June 2011, when he was first diagnosed, and on two more occasions since. Rumours about his health have persisted despite declaring himself completely cured earlier this year.
Venezuela is due to hold regional elections on December 16, and the opposition is demanding more transparency regarding the state of Chavez's health.
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