BOGOTA, (Reuters) – Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Monday he would undergo surgery for a non-aggressive prostate cancer in a health scare that seemed unlikely to derail his government’s imminent talks with Marxist rebels to end decades of war.
Santos, 61, said the tumor was discovered as part of a routine checkup and will be removed on Wednesday.
“It’s a small tumor located on the prostate gland and it’s a good prognosis. It’s not aggressive,” he said at the presidential palace in Bogota, flanked by his doctor and his wife. “There’s a 97 percent chance of being totally cured.”
The Harvard-educated economist, who took office two years ago, is about to embark on negotiations in coming weeks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), whose insurgency has led to the deaths of tens of thousands in half a century.
A successful end to the peace negotiations would help secure Santos a place in history and allow him to further build on the economic and security advances that began under President Alvaro Uribe a decade ago.
Colombia, a nation of about 46 million, has attracted record foreign direct investment over the last few years as a U.S.-backed military offensive against drug traffickers and FARC rebels improved business confidence.
Santos, who as Uribe’s defense minister dealt some of the harshest blows against the FARC, said he would not be handing over presidential duties.
The cancer was detected “very much in time” and his doctor expected the president to be able to make a quick recovery, Santos said. The surgery will be conducted with a local anesthetic at a hospital in Bogota.
“I am going to stay in the clinic a few days. I will be subject to a few physical limitations, but I will continue exercising my functions as president of the Republic,” he said.