Venezuela: Hugo Chavez Says Foes Use Illness As Part Of Campaign
CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER, Associated Press
CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez accused Venezuela's opposition Monday of using his cancer diagnosis as part of a campaign to portray him as incapable of governing to gain an advantage in next year's presidential election.
They are trying "to generate uncertainty in the country and take advantage of my illness from the political point of view," he said while speaking by telephone for a live television interview with the host of a television program.
Chavez, who was first elected in 1998, said he is recuperating from his fourth and final round of chemotherapy and gearing up for his re-election bid next year.
The self-proclaimed revolutionary finished chemotherapy treatment in Cuba last week.
"I'm recovering completely," he said.
Referring to his adversaries, he said, "They are talking about the theory that I'm in grave condition."
Some opposition politicians have suggested Chavez is unfit to continue governing.
"A country cannot be governed by remote control," opposition lawmaker Julio Borges said Sunday, referring to the president's visits to Cuba for treatment and less frequent public appearances.
Chavez 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, spurring criticism from political opponents who argue he should be more straightforward with the details of his illness.
Chavez has said previously that tests have shown no signs of a recurrence.
Earlier Monday, opposition groups promised to put differences aside and rally around the winner of a primary ballot to pick a unity candidate to challenge Chavez in next year's Oct. 7 election.
The coalition will also use the Feb. 12 primary election to choose candidates to compete with the socialist president's allies in gubernatorial and municipal elections.
The coalition announced plans for the primary last February.
The groups said Monday that they would not let their own differences interfere with putting up a united front against Chavez in the Oct. 7, 2012, elections.
"There is nothing that justifies discrimination, exclusion, insults or humiliation," Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, a spokesman for a coalition of opposition parties, said at a news conference. "All Venezuelans will be united."
Disorganization and discord have long bedeviled Venezuela's opposition parties, weakening their attempts to mount a strong challenge to Chavez's socialist administration.
Chavez remains Venezuela's most popular politician, but he has gained more critics due to the government's failure to resolve such pressing problems as a severe shortage of housing for the poor, widespread violent crime and Latin America's highest inflation rate.
He vowed Monday to win next year's election and govern Venezuela for another six years - or more. He said he is drafting a national development plan that would run through 2030.
Venezuela: A Revolution in Progress