CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez left home Saturday for Cuba to begin chemotherapy, vowing to win his fight against cancer and calling for his political allies to stay united in his absence.
Before boarding the presidential plane at Caracas’ international airport, Chavez said: “It’s not time to die. It’s time to live.”
He stood by one of his daughters, Rosa, on a red carpet leading to the plane as a military band played the national anthem and soldiers stood at attention.
He has not said how long he expects to stay in Havana.
The 56-year-old leftist leader spent much of Saturday discussing his health and other issues, including during a televised speech at the presidential palace.
“Tomorrow I begin chemotherapy treatment,” he said, “and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.” He said the treatment would ensure cancer cells have not reappeared since he underwent surgery last month to remove a tumor.
Chavez also made contingencies for his absence by delegating some of his administrative duties to Vice President Elias Jaua and Planning and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani.
But Chavez denied he was in any way ceding his functions as president.
Chavez previously had refused opposition demands that he temporarily cede power to Jaua while undergoing chemotherapy.
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