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Chavez cancer becomes an election issue

Has chemo weakened Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday accused his opposition of using his cancer treatment to depict him as incapable of governing, in order 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 by telephone in a live television interview.

First elected in 1998, Chavez said he is recuperating from his fourth (and last) dose of chemotherapy and ramping up for re-election next year.

The self-described revolutionary finished treatment in Cuba last week.

“I’m recovering completely,” he said.

Describing his opponents, he said “They are talking about the theory that I’m in grave condition.”

“A country cannot be governed by remote control,” opposition legislator Julio Borges said Sunday, referring to the president’s absences of late.

Chavez had surgery in Cuba in June to extract a tumor from his pelvis. He has not announced what type of cancer he has, sparking criticism from political opponents who maintain he should be more open with details about his illness.

Chavez has previously claimed that tests show no signs of a recurrence.

While he remains Venezuela’s most popular politician, Chavez has gained critics after his failure to resolve problems including a shortage of housing for the poor,  frequent violent crime and the highest inflation rate in Latin America.

On Monday he vowed to win next year’s election and rule Venezuela for six more years — or longer.  Chavez is drafting a national development plan that would run through 2030.