- (Photo: REUTERS/Handout/Miraflores Palace)
After returning from cancer treatment in Cuba last week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez went on national television to ask Jesus Christ to save him from death so that he can continue serving his country.
The president, who is a Roman Catholic, openly wept at a pre-Easter mass last week in his home state of Barinas as he called upon Jesus, the Guardian reported.
"Give me your crown, Jesus. Give me your cross, your thorns so that I may bleed. But give me life, because I have more to do for this country and these people. Do not take me yet," Chávez expressed, as he stood below a statue of Jesus with the crucifix.
"Today I have more faith than yesterday," he said. "Life has been a hurricane ... but a couple of years ago my life began to become not my own any more. Who said the path of revolution would be easy?"
The exact nature of Chavez's cancer has not been made public, and little is known about the severity of his condition – however, he reportedly had a large tumor removed from his pelvis after two operations last year. The Venezuelan president has also received two sessions of radiotherapy, and has been well enough to continue making public and televised appearances in the country.
At the pre-Easter church service, the 57-year-old president, wearing a rosary, thanked his mother and father for their love and support, and admitted he could not 'avoid some tears."
A question mark remains over Chavez's political future, as speculation continues to swirl around his health and how long he can continue actively serving in office. He has said, however, that he is recovering from the treatments and ready to continue his campaign to win a new six-year term in October. Chavez has served as president since 1999, and a new victory will give him close to two decades of leadership over the South American country.
Opposition rival Henrique Capriles, who is challenging Chevez for the presidency, has wished him a speedy recovery, although he has criticized the president for suggesting that Jesus Christ would have been anti-capitalist and a fellow left-wing liberal like Chavez.
"This holy week we should remember Christ was neither socialist nor capitalist," Capriles wrote on Twitter.
Despite being unable to campaign throughout most of the country because of his health, President Chavez still holds a 16-point advantage over his rival, the latest polls revealed last month.