CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to Cuba on Sunday to undergo a series of medical tests to evaluate his cancer treatment.
The president, who finished what he described as his fourth and final round of chemotherapy in Cuba last month, said he will be undergoing what he described as "rigorous examinations."
"I have faith that we'll get through these tests," said Chavez, speaking at Simon Bolivar International Airport before boarding a plane for Cuba.
But Fox News reported Monday that Chavez has two years to live.
Salvador Navarrete, his former personal surgeon, told Mexican newspaper Milenio Semanal on Sunday that the leader's condition likely was worse than publicly admitted.
The doctor described the prognosis as "not good." He added, "When I say this, I mean that he has no more than two years to live."
Navarrete said Chavez likely was suffering from either a tumor in his pelvis or a sarcoma, which would explain the intensive course of treatment.
Navarrete was the personal surgeon for Chavez from 2002 until earlier this year, when Chavez changed his medical staff to exclusively Cuban doctors.
Chavez, 57, underwent surgery in Cuba in June to remove a tumor from his pelvic region. He has not revealed what type of cancer he is battling, but he has said that tests have shown no signs of a recurrence.
The self-described revolutionary said he expects to return to Venezuela with a few days with "good news."
He did not elaborate.
Chavez, a former paratroop commander who was first elected in 1998, has repeatedly vowed to beat cancer, fully regain his health and sail to a victory in next year's presidential election.
He recently announced that doctors predict his hair will soon grow back, and even joked about growing an afro before he begins campaigning for next year's Oct. 7 vote.
Many Venezuelans, particularly the president's critics, are skeptical of his assurances that he's recovering. Some suspect that Chavez has not revealed all the details regarding his illness, concealing them like a confidential state secret, because he's in grave condition.
"The president must understand the country cannot continue with this uncertainty regarding his illness," said Gustavo Azocar, an opposition politician and radio talk show host who believes Chavez is unfit to continue governing. "He has attempted to hide the true circumstances of his health."
Azocar argues Chavez should step down.
"The president is not in physical condition to continue as president," Azocar said. "He should focus on his medical treatment and follow the instructions of his doctors."
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