REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, still one of Latin America's most popular figures 10 months after stepping down as president of Brazil, has cancer of the throat and on Monday started chemotherapy, his doctors said.
Lula entered Sao Paulo's Sirio-Libanes Hospital for his first round of treatment, after a tumor on his larynx was discovered over the weekend. Doctors said the prognosis for the 66-year-old politician was good.
Lula left the presidency in January after assuring the electoral victoryof his protege, Dilma Rousseff. He was credited with placing Brazil solidly on the world stage in terms of a booming economy and robust foreign policy.
The Associated Press quoted Lula's doctors as saying they hoped to avoid surgery because, given the location of the tumor, an operation would carry the risk of him losing his voice -- depriving Brazilian politics of the former union leader's powerful "rousing campaign rallies and high-energy speeches."
Revelation of Lula's illness comes as his sometimes-friend Hugo Chavez, socialist president of Venezuela, battles cancer. Chavez has been traveling to Cuba for treatment, and his opponents question whether he will be fit to run for reelection, something he vows to do.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: In a photo taken during the Jan. 1, 2011, inauguration of new Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, poses with his family and supporters. Credit: Associated Press