Chavez cancels trips to Argentina and Brazil

CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez  has canceled trips to Argentina and Brazil that would have been  his first official visits abroad since he underwent cancer  surgery in June, a Brazilian organization said yesterday.
There was no confirmation from Caracas, but the  cancellation was sure to stoke speculation about the  57-year-old socialist leader’s health. Chavez has said he is  cured after four sessions of chemotherapy, but he has not been  seen in public since Tuesday.

He had been due to attend the Dec. 10 swearing-in of  Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez for a second term, and  then visit Brazil’s former leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,  who was also recently diagnosed with cancer.

Lula’s office said in a statement that Chavez’s trip was  suspended “in order to monitor the problems caused by the heavy  rains in Venezuela,” which have left thousands homeless.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami told state  TV that Chavez was taking personal charge of the efforts to  help communities affected by the floods.
“President Chavez has ordered the immediate transfer of  machinery … to ensure there is no major damage,” he said.  Eight Venezuelan states have been declared in a condition of  emergency due to this week’s torrential downpours.
The minister showed a document he said was signed by Chavez  that increased economic aid for the affected areas.
Chavez’s trip would have been a politically useful show of  vigor ahead of his re-election campaign next year.

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