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Hugo Chavez to return to Cuba for medical treatment

President Hugo Chavez is to undergo further treatment for cancer in Cuba. The recently re-elected Venezuelan leader claimed he was cancer free in July.

Congress on Tuesday granted Chavez the legally-required permission to travel.

In his formal request to the National Assembly, Chavez explained that his doctors advised "special treatment" including hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

The trip to Cuba for medical treatment would be the president's first since July when he said he was free of the disease.

The announcement came after almost two weeks since Chavez had last made a public appearence.

His upcoming treatment could make it difficult for him to help allies campaign ahead of Dec. 16 regional elections, which will be key to expanding his control over the provinces.

Chavez, 58, who has governed Venezuela since 1999, won the October 7 presidential election with 55 percent of the vote and is scheduled to start his next six-year term in January.

The long-time Venezuelan leader, who has never disclosed the type or severity of the cancer he had, underwent surgery to remove a tumor in his pelvic region last year in Cuba, followed by multiple rounds of chemotherapy after the cancer returned.

hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)