CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Saturday night that his cancer has returned and that he will undergo another surgery in Cuba.
Chavez, who won re-election on Oct. 7, also said for the first time that if his health were to worsen, his successor would be Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
"We should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution," Chavez said on television, seated at the presidential palace with Maduro and other aides.
The president said that tests had shown a return of "some malignant cells" in the same area where tumors were previously removed.
"I need to return to Havana tomorrow," Chavez said, adding that he would undergo surgery in the coming days.
Chavez called it a "new battle." It is to be his third operation to remove cancerous tissue in about a year and a half.
The 58-year-old president first underwent cancer surgery for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer in Cuba in June 2011, after an operation for a pelvic abscess earlier in the month found the cancer. He had another cancer surgery last February after a tumor appeared in the same area. He has also undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Chavez said tests immediately after his re-election win had shown no sign of cancer. But he said he had swelling and pain, which he thought was due to "the effort of the campaign and the radiation therapy treatment."
"It's a very sensitive area, so we started to pay a lot of attention to that," he said, adding that he had reduced his public appearances.
Chavez made his most recent trip to Cuba on the night of Nov. 27, saying he would receive hyperbaric oxygen treatment. Such treatment is regularly used to help heal tissues damaged by radiation treatment.
Chavez said that he has been coping with pain and that while he was in Cuba thorough exams detected the recurrence of cancer.
He arrived back in Caracas on Friday after 10 days of medical treatment in Cuba, but until Saturday night had not referred to his health. His unexplained decision to skip a summit of regional leaders in Brazil on Friday had raised suspicions among many Venezuelans that his health had taken a turn for the worse.
Chavez said that he was requesting permission from lawmakers to travel to Havana.
"I hope to give you all good news in the coming days," said Chavez, who held up a crucifix and expressed faith.
Stay tuned to Local 10 for more on this story.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.