Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returns to Cuba on Sunday for more surgery after a recurrence of cancer led him to name a successor for the first time in case the disease ends his 14-year dominance of the OPEC nation.
Singing, praying and waving Chavez election posters from just two months ago, throngs of red-clad supporters gathered in squares across the South American country to show solidarity with the 58-year-old socialist leader.
In his first public acknowledgement that he might have to step down, Chavez said his vice president and foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, would take over if he were incapacitated.
He urged supporters to back Maduro if there was a new vote.
“I have absolute confidence in the bright future that lies ahead for our beloved fatherland and the Bolivarian revolution,” Chavez said in a short letter read to an emotional session of the National Assembly that approved his return to Havana.