Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez told the nation that his cancer had returned and named his successor should he not survive a new battle against the disease.
Mr Chavez, who won re-election on October 7, also said for the first time that if his health were to worsen, his successor would be vice president Nicolas Maduro.
“We should guarantee the advance of the Bolivarian Revolution,” Mr Chavez said on television, seated at the presidential palace with Mr Maduro and other aides.
The president said tests had shown a return of “some malignant cells” in the same area where tumours were previously removed.
“I need to return to Havana tomorrow,” he said, adding that he would undergo surgery in the coming days.
Mr Chavez called his third operation to remove cancerous tissue in about a year and a half a “new battle”.