Hugo Chavez leaves Venezuela for surgery in Cuba

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared defiantly that he 'will live', in an address just ahead of the leader's scheduled visit to Cuba for medical care.

Fox News reported that Chavez, who is scheduled to leave Friday to undergo surgery for a lesion in a location that was not disclosed, spoke for more than four hours on national television Thursday night, reminiscing about his childhood only pausing to listen to messages from supporters.

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The program, which was shown on state television by government order, was jovial and sometimes sermonic.

"I dreamt a while ago of Christ who came and said 'Chavez, rise, it is not time to die, it is time to live'," he was quoted by Reuters as saying during the broadcast. "If the cancer is back, I declare it squalid and it will be dealt with mercilessly and defeated."

Thursday night's speech also warned supporters to be wary of rumors of the president's death, which would surely follow his departure from the country, reported IOL News.

Chavez, 57, traveled to Cuba last year to have a malignant tumor removed from his pelvis, a trip which left many speculating about his ailing health.

The president is running for re-election on a ballot scheduled for Oct. 7, against Henrique Capriles, the 39-year-old governor of Miranda state.

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According to Reuters, opinion polls show Venezuelans split, with a third pro-Chavez, a third pro-opposition, and a third undecided.

Opposition members called on Chavez to hand powers over to his vice president before his departure as it is not known when he will return.

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