Chavez was treated last year for a "baseball-sized tumor." Little more detail has been released about the illness, causing much speculation. The president claimed to be cured last October to the surprise of many experts. However, last month he announced another growth for which he needed an operation again in Cuba, Venezuela's close ally.
The recurrence of last year's cancer has come at a bad time for the president who in October will battle the newly elected opposition leader, Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, for the presidency.
Capriles has taken pains to steer clear of the topic in his election campaign, part of a larger drive to avoid confrontation with Chavez in order to woo those who have become disillusioned with Chavez but are not necessarily against another six-year term for the socialist leader.
The election campaign took an ugly turn Sunday. While Chavez was on television, gunmen attacked a Capriles rally firing at the governor's supporters. Capriles himself was not injured but the son of an opposition congressman, Ismael Garcia, was wounded.
Garcia reportedly attributed the attack to the government. "The government cannot say that they are not responsible for this," he said. "The people that attacked were known leaders of the PSUV."
Capriles also accused the government in a tweet: "The government represents chaos and violence. It today demonstrated its fear of the future."