(Adds reason for response in second paragraph.)
Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has been treated for cancer, was diagnosed and treated in time to stem the disease and his “current evolution is absolutely satisfactory with an excellent prognosis,” according to a statement read on state television by Dr. Fidel Ramirez of the Military Hospital.
The medical team held the news conference to respond to Dr. Salvador Navarrete, who in an interview in the Oct. 16 edition of the Mexico City-based daily Milenio said Chavez has retroperitoneal sarcoma and is unlikely to survive the next two years.
Ramirez, who is part of Chavez’s medical team, said today that Navarrete has never treated Chavez or any member of the president’s family. Although Navarrete participated in informal meetings between Chavez and doctors, he didn’t evaluate Chavez’s health and never had access to information on his health, Ramirez said.
Navarrete, who said he was Chavez’s doctor in 2002, wrote in a letter published yesterday in the Caracas-based daily Tal Cual, that the Milenio interview had forced him to leave Venezuela with his family. He went public to help the country prepare for the “traumatic” event, he said.
“It worries me that the president and his political advisers don’t understand the magnitude of his illness,” Navarrete wrote in the letter. His “passing away in this moment could be more traumatic than the politicians may think.”
In the interview with Milenio, Navarrete said he met with other doctors, who treat members of the Chavez family, to share information and came to the diagnosis of sarcoma. In the letter, Navarrete said he drew his conclusions from publicly available information.
Chavez, who has declined to reveal what kind of cancer he has, except to say that he had a baseball-sized tumor removed from his pelvic area, said Oct. 20 he was “free of illness” after returning from Cuba, where he underwent tests. The 57- year-old said he’ll take part in elections next year, which he hopes to win by “knockout” to secure a third consecutive six- year term as president.
Ramirez didn’t say what kind of cancer Chavez has when asked by a journalist. “First off, I think we have to respect the patient’s will,” Ramirez said. “The president has a cancer that was found in the pelvic area and that was treated successfully and on time. I think that satisfies somewhat whatever curiosity or concern anyone has about the president’s health.”
“His health couldn’t be better,” Ramirez said.
--Editors: Mike Millard, Ann Hughey.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jose Orozco in Caracas at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at email@example.com