(Adds Chavez comments starting in first paragraph.)
July 28 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called on his government to remove the word death from a military slogan and said that he plans to rule past 2031 as he prepares for a new round of chemotherapy in the “coming days.”
Chavez, speaking from a balcony at the presidential palace for a celebration of his 57th birthday today, said that while he’s currently in a “quarantine” of sorts while receiving treatment, he expects to live another 57 years and to win another presidential term in elections next year.
Chavez, who was jailed in 1992 for leading a failed coup after serving as a paratrooper and tank commander, called on his government to change a military slogan that he promoted from “Fatherland, Socialism or Death,” to “Fatherland, Socialism or Victory. We will live and conquer.”
“Here there won’t be any death,” Chavez, who was dressed in a bright yellow shirt in place of his normal olive green jacket and red shirt, said. “We can’t choose between victory and death, we must live and conquer.”
The self-declared socialist revolutionary underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a baseball-sized tumor discovered by doctors during a June 11 operation on an abscess. He returned from a second trip to Cuba on July 23, saying tests hadn’t shown any signs of more cancerous cells and that he would need further treatment.
In another conversation broadcast by state TV this morning, Chavez said he felt “like a phoenix” that was “being reborn” and for the first time gave a prognosis for his illness.
“We estimate that by the end of the year I will have passed this hard, cautious, very, very strict phase,” he said. “This will be several months, until the end of the year, but I’ll serve my government duties and next year I’ll be the candidate again and win again,” he said later from the balcony.
The chemotherapy treatment will “inevitably” make him lose his hair “for a few months,” he said. Chavez joked that he’ll end up looking like the Russian-born Hollywood actor Yul Brynner, star of movies from the 1950s through the 1970s such as “The King and I” and “The Ten Commandments.”
“In a few days you will surely see Chavez bald,” the former paratrooper said in a phone call broadcast on state television yesterday evening. “Do you remember Yul Brynner? I’ll be Yul Chavez.”
He said that treatment has lowered his white blood cell count, making him susceptible to contamination. The treatment has also lowered his red blood cell count, meaning physical activity is limited because his body is producing less oxygen, Chavez said.
The South American leader denied opposition claims that his government is divided between civilian and military factions today after publicly denying that he was preparing his brother or daughter to succeed him.
Chavez said that his socialist movement is “various steps ahead of the chaos,” in reference to the sovereign debt problems in Europe and the U.S. and said that capitalism is going bankrupt.
“The Yankees are broke. It’s a good thing that they don’t owe us money since they don’t have any to give,” Chavez said. “Should we give a small loan to the gringos? Should we give Obama a loan?”
--Editors: Joshua Goodman, Ben Richardson
To contact the reporters on this story: Charlie Devereux in Caracas at firstname.lastname@example.org; Daniel Cancel in Caracas at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at firstname.lastname@example.org