Venezuela suspends summit over Chavez's health


Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa (L) and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez (C) wave in Salinas, Ecuador.


Rodrigo Buendia

Venezuela suspended next week's regional summit of foreign leaders amid speculation over President Hugo Chavez's health.

An unsubstantiated rumor has been circulating that Chavez has prostate cancer.

Chavez went to Cuba June 8 and according to officials had an operation two days later to remove a pelvic abscess. But the Venezuelan leader known for his frequent public appearances then went missing from the public eye.

(More from GlobalPost: The worrisome absence of Hugo Chavez)

There were no new posts on his Twitter account for more than two weeks, and he hasn't spoken publicly since calling into the Telesur television network on June 12.

The official line has been that Chavez is recovering from his operation. But in his absence, speculation has grown that Chavez's health is deteriorating.

On Tuesday, authorities released images of Chavez in an apparent attempt to convince his supporters he is doing well. The video showed Chavez walking with and talking to Cuba's revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

Chavez was expected to return to Venezuela by July 5 to host the summit of the new regional bloc, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). He was expected to chair the gathering on Margarita Island just off Caracas, BBC reports.

The new organization is being created largely to counter U.S. influence in the region.

“It is absolutely crucial for Chavez to make that appearance while these power struggles are intensifying,” Reva Bhalla, an analyst at intelligence firm Stratfor, earlier told GlobalPost's Girish Gupta.

July 5 will also be Venezuela's 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

However, Venezuelan officials announced Wednesday the summit has been postponed.

The announcement has cast even more uncertainty on the leader's health, the Los Angeles Times reports.