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Hugo Chavez’s heir tears up over cancer battle

  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center,  blows a goodbye kiss prior to boarding his plane at the Simon Bolivar International airport in Maiquetia near Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

    In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center, blows a goodbye kiss prior to boarding his plane at the Simon Bolivar International airport in Maiquetia near Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012. For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center,  blows a goodbye kiss prior to boarding his plane at the Simon Bolivar International airport in Maiquetia near Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

    In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center, blows a goodbye kiss prior to boarding his plane at the Simon Bolivar International airport in Maiquetia near Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012. For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds a sword that once belonged to independence hero Simon Bolivar at a meeting with his Cabinet, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  Chavez met with his Cabinet Monday morning, prior to his departure to Cuba for a third cancer operation.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

    In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds a sword that once belonged to independence hero Simon Bolivar at a meeting with his Cabinet, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012. Chavez met with his Cabinet Monday morning, prior to his departure to Cuba for a third cancer operation. For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds a sword that once belonged to independence hero Simon Bolivar at a meeting with his Cabinet, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  Chavez met with his Cabinet Monday morning, prior to his departure to Cuba for a third cancer operation.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

    In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds a sword that once belonged to independence hero Simon Bolivar at a meeting with his Cabinet, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012. Chavez met with his Cabinet Monday morning, prior to his departure to Cuba for a third cancer operation. For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)

  • Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, center, greets reporters upon his arrival at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa traveled to Cuba to visit Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who arrived in Cuba early Monday for a third cancer operation. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

    Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, center, greets reporters upon his arrival at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa traveled to Cuba to visit Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who arrived in Cuba early Monday for a third cancer operation. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • A Venezuelan woman cheers during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in front of the embassy of Venezuela in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012.  Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

    A Venezuelan woman cheers during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in front of the embassy of Venezuela in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • A woman holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as supporters gather at Simon Bolivar square in Caracas,Venezuela, Sunday Dec.  9, 2012.  Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

    A woman holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as supporters gather at Simon Bolivar square in Caracas,Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

  • A woman reacts during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

    A woman reacts during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

  • A person holds up an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a demonstration in support of him at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

    A person holds up an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a demonstration in support of him at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

  • A woman, right, reacts during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

    A woman, right, reacts during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

  • Supporters of  Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gather during a vigil in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

    Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gather during a vigil in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

  • Supporters of  Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gather during a vigil in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

    Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gather during a vigil in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

  • Member of an alleged organized crime group, Mexican citizen Raquel Alatorre Correa, attends her hearing in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa and other members of the group, who are facing charges of organized crime and money laundering, were detained on Aug. 24 in Las Manos, Nicaragua, when they were traveling inside a Televisa TV truck with "press badges," high–definition video cameras, microphones and a satellite dish and according to authorities, hidden beneath the sound boards and screens in three of the vans, officers found black gym bags stuffed with $9.2 million in cash for alleged use in drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

    Member of an alleged organized crime group, Mexican citizen Raquel Alatorre Correa, attends her hearing in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa and other members of the group, who are facing charges of organized crime and money laundering, were detained on Aug. 24 in Las Manos, Nicaragua, when they were traveling inside a Televisa TV truck with "press badges," high–definition video cameras, microphones and a satellite dish and according to authorities, hidden beneath the sound boards and screens in three of the vans, officers found black gym bags stuffed with $9.2 million in cash for alleged use in drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

  • Member of an alleged organized crime group, Mexican citizen Raquel Alatorre Correa, attends her hearing in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa and other members of the group, who are facing charges of organized crime and money laundering, were detained on Aug. 24 in Las Manos, Nicaragua, when they were traveling inside a Televisa TV truck with "press badges," high–definition video cameras, microphones and a satellite dish and according to authorities, hidden beneath the sound boards and screens in three of the vans, officers found black gym bags stuffed with $9.2 million in cash for alleged use in drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

    Member of an alleged organized crime group, Mexican citizen Raquel Alatorre Correa, attends her hearing in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa and other members of the group, who are facing charges of organized crime and money laundering, were detained on Aug. 24 in Las Manos, Nicaragua, when they were traveling inside a Televisa TV truck with "press badges," high–definition video cameras, microphones and a satellite dish and according to authorities, hidden beneath the sound boards and screens in three of the vans, officers found black gym bags stuffed with $9.2 million in cash for alleged use in drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

  • A person holds up an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez among religious images during a demonstration in support of him at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

    A person holds up an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez among religious images during a demonstration in support of him at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

  • People pray during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

    People pray during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

  • A woman holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as supporters gather at Simon Bolivar square in Caracas,Venezuela, Sunday Dec.  9, 2012.  Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

    A woman holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as supporters gather at Simon Bolivar square in Caracas,Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center,  blows a goodbye kiss prior to boarding his plane at the Simon Bolivar International airport in Maiquetia near Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)
  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center,  blows a goodbye kiss prior to boarding his plane at the Simon Bolivar International airport in Maiquetia near Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)
  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds a sword that once belonged to independence hero Simon Bolivar at a meeting with his Cabinet, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  Chavez met with his Cabinet Monday morning, prior to his departure to Cuba for a third cancer operation.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)
  • In this photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds a sword that once belonged to independence hero Simon Bolivar at a meeting with his Cabinet, at Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec 10, 2012.  Chavez met with his Cabinet Monday morning, prior to his departure to Cuba for a third cancer operation.  For the first time, Chavez has designated a political heir, who said that if he suffers complications, Vice President Nicolas Maduro should be elected as Venezuela's leader to continue his socialist movement. (AP Photo/Miraflores Press Office, Marcelo Garcia)
  • Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, center, greets reporters upon his arrival at the Jose Marti International airport in Havana, Cuba, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa traveled to Cuba to visit Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who arrived in Cuba early Monday for a third cancer operation. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
  • A Venezuelan woman cheers during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in front of the embassy of Venezuela in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012.  Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
  • A woman holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as supporters gather at Simon Bolivar square in Caracas,Venezuela, Sunday Dec.  9, 2012.  Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
  • A woman reacts during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
  • A person holds up an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez during a demonstration in support of him at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
  • A woman, right, reacts during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
  • Supporters of  Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gather during a vigil in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
  • Supporters of  Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez gather during a vigil in Managua, Nicaragua, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time. Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
  • Member of an alleged organized crime group, Mexican citizen Raquel Alatorre Correa, attends her hearing in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa and other members of the group, who are facing charges of organized crime and money laundering, were detained on Aug. 24 in Las Manos, Nicaragua, when they were traveling inside a Televisa TV truck with "press badges," high–definition video cameras, microphones and a satellite dish and according to authorities, hidden beneath the sound boards and screens in three of the vans, officers found black gym bags stuffed with $9.2 million in cash for alleged use in drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
  • Member of an alleged organized crime group, Mexican citizen Raquel Alatorre Correa, attends her hearing in Managua, Nicaragua, Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Correa and other members of the group, who are facing charges of organized crime and money laundering, were detained on Aug. 24 in Las Manos, Nicaragua, when they were traveling inside a Televisa TV truck with "press badges," high–definition video cameras, microphones and a satellite dish and according to authorities, hidden beneath the sound boards and screens in three of the vans, officers found black gym bags stuffed with $9.2 million in cash for alleged use in drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
  • A person holds up an image of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez among religious images during a demonstration in support of him at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
  • People pray during a demonstration in support of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez at the Simon Bolivar square in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday Dec. 9, 2012. Chavez was heading back to Cuba on Sunday for more cancer surgery after announcing that the illness returned despite two previous operations, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further" Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
  • A woman holds a picture of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez as supporters gather at Simon Bolivar square in Caracas,Venezuela, Sunday Dec.  9, 2012.  Chavez is to return to Cuba Sunday for another surgery in his battle against cancer, which has led him to speak publicly of a successor for the first time.  Chavez said Saturday that if there are "circumstances that prevent me from exercising the presidency further"  Vice-President Nicolas Maduro should replace him for the remainder of his term.(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s cancer relapse and his sudden announcement that he will undergo a fourth cancer-related surgery in Cuba have thrown the country’s future into question, and his designated political heir has begun trying to fill the void.

Underlining the gravity of the situation, Vice President Nicolas Maduro broke into tears yesterday at a political rally hours after Chavez flew to Havana.

“Chavez has a nation, he has all of us, and he’ll have all of us forever in this battle,” said Maduro, who wiped away tears while speaking to supporters. “Even beyond this life, we’re going to be loyal to Hugo Chavez.”

Maduro called for the president’s supporters to rally behind his candidates in upcoming gubernatorial elections on Sunday, and he also inaugurated a new cable car system in a poor neighborhood. Maduro, who spoke passionately and wore the red of Chavez’s socialist movement, seems set to take on a larger role as the president’s chosen successor.

Chavez said for the first time Saturday that if he suffers complications, Maduro should take over for him and should be elected president to continue his socialist movement.

Analysts say Maduro faces monumental challenges in trying to stand in for his mentor and hold together the president’s diverse “Chavismo” movement, while also coping with economic problems that are weighing on the government.

Maduro may inherit political power, “but he definitely can’t inherit the charisma” of Chavez, said Luis Vicente Leon, a pollster who heads the Venezuelan firm Datanalisis. He said that during his nearly 14 years in office Chavez has been the glue that has held together groups from radical leftists to moderates, as well as military factions.

Leon said it’s unclear if Maduro has what it takes to hold the movement together if Chavez dies. “Internal divisions could make the revolution unstable in the future,” Leon said.

Political analyst Vladimir Villegas, who has known Maduro since his adolescence, said the vice president’s experience years ago as a public transit union leader will probably help him in the difficult task of mediating between different groups of Chavez allies.

Maduro is considered to belong to a radical leftist wing of Chavez’s movement that is closely aligned with Cuba’s communist government. But Villegas said he thinks Maduro will know how to contain his radicalism for practical purposes.

“The priority will be the preservation of political stability, for which it will be necessary to begin negotiating with internal groups and even with the opposition,” said Villegas, who hosts a radio program. “This situation is going to force him to proceed with caution.”

Villegas also said that Maduro will need to “hold on to the trust if the Chavista base and to neutralize the fractions that are going to bet . . . on him not doing well.”

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