By Jefferson Ribeiro and Marianna Parraga
BRASILIA/CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will travel to Brazil for cancer treatment, a Brazilian government source told Reuters on Thursday, the latest sign that the socialist leader is still battling the illness after undergoing surgery in Cuba.
Chavez will travel to Brazil's Sirio-Libanes hospital in Sao Paulo, renowned for its cancer treatment facilities, the source said, adding that no timeline has been set for his arrival.
There was no official confirmation from Caracas. A high-ranking Venezuelan government official, when asked if Chavez would go to Brazil for treatment, said "I don't know."
A prolonged illness requiring Chavez to step aside or preventing him from governing could destabilize the oil-producing nation because he has no evident successor.
Going to Brazil for treatment may suggest his cancer is still serious. He has appeared animated in recent television appearances though at times looks pale and appears to walk with discomfort.
Chavez has revealed he may have to receive chemotherapy and said the operation in Cuba removed a "baseball-size" tumor. He has not said exactly where the cancer is, only that he was operated on in the pelvic region.
A source linked to Venezuela's diplomatic community said, based on information from the Brazilian government, that Chavez's family was pressuring him to go to Brazil to ensure he gets the best treatment and returns to Venezuela quickly.
Many in Venezuela had expected Chavez to return to Cuba, which would fuel criticism from opponents about his close links to the Communist-led island.
His nearly month-long stay there in June caused a wave of rumors and concerns about tensions among allies.
The Sirio-Libanes hospital is renowned for its cancer center that treated Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff when she was recovering from lymphoma before she ran for office.
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has undergone cancer treatment there as well.
Brazil's government has offered to host Chavez if he seeks medical treatment there.
(Reporting by Jeferson Ribeiro in Brasilia, Todd Benson in Sao Paulo, Marianna Parraga in Caracas and Frank Jack Daniel in Caracas, Writing by Luciana Lopez and Brian Ellsworth)