Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (L) is seen before leaving for Cuba at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela, Dec. 10, 2012. President Hugo Chavez returned to Cuba early Monday for emergency surgery. (Xinhua/Venezuelan Presidency)
HAVANA, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to Cuba early Monday for emergency surgery after designating Vice President Nicholas Maduro as his replacement should he become incapacitated.
Cuban doctors had urged Chavez to undergo surgery over the weekend at
the latest, after detecting a recurrence of cancer, but he apparently postponed the procedure to entrust his government to his closest aide Maduro, who also serves as foreign minister.
He was welcomed by Cuban leader Raul Castro and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at the Havana international airport.
Chavez also received support and goodwill wishes from other South American leaders.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa came on Monday to Havana to show solidarity with Chavez. "We came to embrace him on behalf of the Ecuadorian Fatherland," Correa said. "This is a gesture of solidarity with a brother at heart."
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera expressed his support for Chavez via Twitter, wishing him "much faith, strength and a speedy recovery."
"We will pray for his speedy recovery," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said via Twitter.
"Mexico expresses its best wishes for a successful surgery, as well as a full recovery of the Venezuelan president," said the Mexican government.
Venezuela's National Assembly Sunday approved the petition of Chavez to travel to Cuba for the new round of surgery. The 58-year-old has been fighting pelvic cancer since 2011 and has undergone three surgeries in the abdomen over the last 18 months.
In a televised appearance Saturday night, Chavez named Maduro his successor in case he is unable to fulfill his leadership responsibilities, and asked Venezuelans to vote for Maduro to succeed him as president.
Venezuela's Constitution rules that elections are to be called in 30 days if the president becomes incapacitated.
"We must ensure the progress of the revolution, the victorious march of the revolution, building the new country, building the Venezuelan road to socialism, with broad participation and freedom," Chavez said.
He won the Oct. 7 presidential election with 55 percent of the vote and is due to start his third six-year mandate on Jan. 10.
But his health situation has become a great concern of the nation before the country holds regional elections on Dec. 16.
The opposition has demanded more transparency concerning his health.