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In brief: Chavez returns to Cuba for removal of tumor

Caracas, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez bid an emotional farewell laced with references to Jesus Christ and independence hero Simon Bolivar as he departed Venezuela on Friday for Cuba for urgent surgery to remove a tumor he says is probably malignant.

Clasping the hand of his youngest daughter, Chavez addressed allies of his socialist political movement and troops standing at attention at the Miraflores presidential palace.

“I say this from my gut: With cancer or without cancer … come rain, thunder or lightning … nobody can avoid a great patriotic victory Oct. 7,” the president said, referring to the date of Venezuela’s presidential election. “Long live Chavez!”

Chavez said he planned to meet with doctors today and undergo a series of medical tests.

Chavez, 57, is turning to the same Cuban doctors who extracted a baseball-size cancerous tumor from his pelvic region last summer. This time, the growth is smaller, about an inch in diameter.

Australian leader trying to beat back challenge

Canberra, Australia – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she is “incredibly confident” of leading her Labor Party to victory in elections next year despite new polls showing party rival Kevin Rudd would be a more popular leader.

Gillard has called a leadership ballot of Labor lawmakers in a bid to end a bitter power struggle with Rudd, her former foreign minister. Rudd is the clear underdog in Monday’s leadership vote, with Gillard expected to have enough support to remain in power.

But undecided lawmakers may be swayed by three reputable opinion polls published in newspapers today that showed that the public preferred Rudd as prime minister over Gillard.

Gillard used a Labor regional conference today to dismiss as “lazy talk” speculation of a Labor defeat in next year’s elections.


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