HAVANA, December 12 (RIA Novosti) - Cuban doctors have started operating on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan information and communications minister Ernesto Villegas said late on Tuesday.
“Doctors involved in the treatment of Commander Hugo Chavez are performing the surgery scheduled for today, which goes according to the plan,” Villegas said.
He earlier said the doctors “expressed their optimism about the success of the operation, conducted as part of the treatment plan for Chavez, in order to fully recover.”
Meanwhile, opposition Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda said in his Twitter that “Chavez’s surgery in CIMEQ has just ended.”
“It was successful,” Bocaranda said. “We have to wait for 72 hours that Chavez will spend in the intensive care.”
Villegas also called on Venezuelan people “to unite in prayer” for the president and thanked participants of “countless solidarity demonstrations all over the world.”
Residents of the Venezuelan state of Falcon, carrying Venezuelan national flags, organized a mass prayer and a pilgrimage ahead of the planned surgery, the AVN news agency said. Mass prayers for Chavez recovery were also organized in the Central American state of El Salvador.
Chavez, 58, who has ruled Venezuela for 13 years, underwent three operations for cancer and four courses of chemotherapy in Cuba and Venezuela within a year. He said that recent tests had revealed malignant cells.
He announced on national television late on Saturday that he was flying to Cuba for new cancer surgery, and named Vice-President and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as his possible successor.
Venezuelan doctor Jose Rafael Marquina, who is based in the United States and is known for his accurate prognoses on Chavez’s health, told RCN radio that the disease has entered an aggressive stage and Chavez has "between two and three months to live."