Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced a relapse of his cancer and designated Vice President Nicolas Maduro as his heir apparent, 'just in case.'
An emotional Chavez admitted in a national televised address Saturday that "some malignant cells" were detected during his most recent medical examination in Cuba, adding that he would return to the island as early as Sunday for another round of surgery.
In his first public acknowledgement that his illness could force him to step down, the Venezuelan leader also said that in the event "something happened," Vice President Nicolas Maduro would assume control of the government for the rest of the 2013-2019 term, as required by the constitution.
Al Jazeera reports that "the president also indicated he would like Maduro to take over the reins of power in a post-Chavez period."
"You choose Maduro as president of the republic," Chavez said, urging Venezuelans to vote for him in the next presidential elections. "I am asking you this from all my heart."
Maduro currently serves as both Venezuala's foreign minister and the country's vice president.
According to Reuters, the former bus driver and union leader "is widely viewed as the most popular among Venezuelans, thanks to his affable manner, humble background and close relationship with Chavez." Adding:
While his humble roots appeal to the president's working class supporters, Maduro's six years as Chavez's foreign minister have boosted his profile with the leaders of China, Russia and other world powers.
He has an easygoing style but also is a firm believer in Chavez's socialist policies and has often led fierce criticism of the United States.
Also, Al Jazeera reports:
Chavez admitted he was suffering "somewhat strong" pain and was taking tranquilizers as part of preparation for his upcoming surgery.
He acknowledged that his Cuban medical team had conveyed to him a sense of urgency about the operation, which he said was now "absolutely necessary”.