Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that he will return to Cuba to begin a new phase of cancer treatment that will include chemotherapy.
Mr Chavez said he was seeking legislative approval to go back to Havana today “to begin what we’ve called the second phase”.
He said he was sending a letter to the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Fernando Soto Rojas, to request immediate “legislative authorisation” for his trip as required by the constitution.
It was not clear how long Mr Chavez planned to remain in Cuba.
The 56-year-old’s cancer diagnosis has thrown uncertainty into Venezuela’s political landscape during the past two weeks.
Mr Chavez, who has held dominant power during more than 12 years in office, has said he is confident he will rebound but has also admitted a long road to recovery remains.
Mr Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumour from his pelvic region. He has said the tumour was the size of a baseball, but has not specified where it was located.
He acknowledged on Wednesday for the first time that he expected to undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment, which he said would “armour the body against new malignant cells”.
Mr Chavez made his announcement after meeting with Peruvian president-elect Ollanta Humala at the presidential palace.
Mr Humala wished Mr Chavez the best in “this personal battle you are leading”.
The National Assembly was calling a special session this morning to take up the president’s request, said an opposition leader, legislator Alfonso Marquina.
Mr Chavez’s allies hold a majority of seats in the assembly.
Mr Marquina said opposition politicians intended to vote in favour of granting the president a “temporary absence”.
He said they also hoped to receive “a medical report that dispels doubts for all Venezuelans about what the president’s true state of health is”.
Mr Marquina said he and other opposition politicians believe Vice President Elias Jaua should temporarily assume Mr Chavez’s duties while the president is away receiving treatment.
Mr Chavez spent much of June in Cuba without revealing much about his medical state. On June 30, he announced on television that doctors had removed the tumour in the second of two surgeries.
He made a surprise return to Caracas on July 4 and rallied thousands of supporters from the presidential palace that afternoon. He arrived as Venezuela was celebrating the bicentennial of its declaration of independence from Spain.
During the past two weeks, Mr Chavez’s Twitter account has posted a flurry of messages commenting on everything from the Venezuelan football team’s performance to a concert led by Venezuelan-born conductor Gustavo Dudamel.
He has also appeared on television leading Cabinet meetings, addressing troops and attending Mass.
Mr Chavez, who is up for re-election next year, has sought to project confidence while often telling supporters: “We will live!”