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The normally upbeat Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is taking his latest cancer diagnosis noticeably more serious than he did the last one. All signs are pointing to his health failing him very, very soon. 

So, yeah, Chavez's cancer is back. Which is a pretty big deal considering he's been fighting cancer with treatments in Cuba for almost a year now. He spent the summer assuring people he would be okay on time for the fall elections, and it seemed like he was. As far as we knew his radiotherapy was effective. He even won a new term as President! But now it's back, so the President has to return to Cuba for radiotherapy, and the normally defiant in the face of cancer Chavez is particularly somber in the face of this latest diagnosis.

Chavez went so far as to name his vice-president Nicolas Maduro his heir in case "something happened" before his inauguration on January 10. "You choose Maduro as president of the republic," Chavez said on national television. "I am asking you this from all my heart." He has to return to Cuba for surgery as soon as possible, he said. 

But it won't matter, as the AFP explains, if he dies before his inauguration: 

Under the Venezuelan constitution, if the new president is incapacitated before inauguration, which is scheduled for January 10, new elections must be called in 30 days. The parliamentary speaker must then take charge until a new president is elected.

Chavez laughed in the face of his last diagnosis, and acted like it wasn't a big deal. This time he's admitting the pain is, "not insignificant." Let's hope he doesn't try and blame the U.S. again. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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