LA PAZ – Bolivia’s President Evo Morales traveled to Cuba for an operation to remove a small, benign tumor in his larynx.
Morales departed on a flight that left the airport in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba at around midnight Friday bound for the Communist-ruled island.
“I’m sorry to have to leave the country for reasons already known,” the president said in a ceremony in which he temporarily handed over the reins of government to Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera.
Doctors had recommended that he undergo the operation this weekend, according to the head of state.
The tumor is located on the left side of Morales’ vocal box. Once it is removed, he must not speak at all for at least 48 hours, Bolivian Health Minister Ariana Campero said this week.
Morales said he felt no pain in his throat, was merely suffering from hoarseness and that the doctors told him the surgery would last 15 minutes at the most.
The doctors say it is not a serious matter but is potentially harmful, Morales said before apologizing to the Bolivia people for causing them concern.
The leftist president said he could not give a precise date for his return to Bolivia because that would depend on medical assessments.
Prior to his remarks, Campero said the surgery may be performed on Friday depending on the results of tests conducted in Cuba.
Morales began to experience hoarseness in January after giving a long speech to commemorate his 11 years in power and the condition became more evident in his subsequent weekly addresses.
The tumor was discovered early this month in Cuba after he underwent emergency treatment for dysphonia, sinusitis and abdominal pain.
Morales decided to undergo treatment in Cuba after five Bolivian doctors were unable to cure his dysphonia, his administration said.