President Rene Preval, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago, said Sunday the disease may have come back and that he would soon leave the country for treatment and more tests.
Speaking to reporters after returning from a four-day trip to Cuba for medical exams, a fit-looking Preval said blood tests in Havana showed possible signs of cancer.
Preval said the tests were inconclusive and that he would have to return to Cuba on Dec. 26 for more tests and unspecified treatment. He did not say how long he would be out of the country.
“They (doctors) are unable to say right now at what stage this is,” Preval said after arriving at Haiti’s international airport. “I have to go back for more tests. If it continues to grow, that will mean the cancer came back.”
“The seriousness of it is not known,” Preval added, saying he felt “physically and mentally well.”
Preval, 63, was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001, the last year of his first presidential term, and had surgery in Cuba to treat it.
He returned unexpectedly to Havana on Wednesday for what his office described as “medical reasons,” setting off rumors in Haiti’s capital that he might be gravely ill.
“If you are sick, you should say that you are sick, and I told you at what stage my health is. This is what the doctor told me,” Preval said at the airport Sunday, flanked by his prime minister, Jacques Edouard Alexis, and several Cabinet members.
Preval’s health adds to the uncertainty already facing his young coalition government, which has struggled to stabilize the divided and impoverished Caribbean nation nearly three years after a bloody rebellion toppled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Calm becoming chaos
Haiti experienced relative calm after Preval’s February election victory. Since the new government took power in May, however, dozens of foreigners and Haitians have been kidnapped and gang fighting has forced hundreds to flee their homes in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
An 8,800-strong force of U.N. troops and international police provides the only real security in a country plagued with well-armed gangs. U.N. officials have said some gangs are using violence to pressure Preval for concessions, but the president has said he doesn’t believe the crime is political in nature.
The streets of the capital were mostly quiet Sunday, with little evident reaction to the news of Preval’s possible sickness.
A legislator from the opposition FUSION party, Frantz Robert Monde, said Saturday that Preval appeared to be seriously ill and that Alexis may have to go before Parliament to give details on the president’s health.
Speaking to private radio broadcaster Caribe FM, Monde said that could help legislators decide whether Preval should temporarily transfer powers to an executive council made up by Cabinet members and led by the prime minister, as outlined in Haiti’s constitution.
Preval’s office made no immediate comment on the remarks.