Hugo Chavez skips Cartagena leaders summit citing ill-health


A boy takes pictures of a poster with the image of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas.



Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, skipped the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena on doctor's orders, heading instead to Cuba for radiotherapy treatment to treat his cancer, according to news reports.

"On the recommendation of his medical team, President Chavez decided not to attend this event," the Buenos Aires Herald quoted Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as saying.

Maduro was attending the meeting of about 30 heads of state, including President Barack Obama, in Chavez's place.

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According to the Associated Press, Chavez's absence heads off a potential face-to-face confrontation with Obama, adding that Chavez has often used regional summits as a platform to criticize US influence in the region.

At the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, Chavez gave Obama a book that he encouraged him to read: "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent," by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

Meanwhile, while Chavez -- battling an undisclosed type of cancer -- has repeatedly said he is fit to remain in office, his decision is likely to add to speculation over the country's leadership ahead of October elections, the Wall Street Journal wrote.

The former army officer, 57, who is seeking a third six-year term, reportedly told a crowd of supporters on Friday that while the radiation therapy had affected his strength, "I'm doing well."

According to Reuters, his opponents have criticized him for keeping Venezuelans in the dark about the extent of his illness.

"To date there has been no medical report ... we do not know how serious the cancer is," opposition lawmaker Carlos Berrizbeitia said in the National Assembly.

Venezuelans do not know "how long the president has left to live," Berrizbeitia said, Reuters reported.

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