BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) _ United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta was in critical condition Tuesday after undergoing surgery to stop internal bleeding.

Huerta, 70, underwent the surgery Monday to close a rare opening of the aortic artery within the intestines, family members said. She was on life support and sedated, but she was opening her eyes.

``With prayers and that great fighting spirit we've come to know her by, we're hoping it all comes together for her,'' said Emilio Huerta, one of her 11 children.

Huerta was first hospitalized Wednesday for treatment of a bleeding ulcer, and was released Friday. Family members said she began feeling ill again the next day and was readmitted to Bakersfield Heart Hospital on Sunday.

Doctors again examined her and discovered the problem with the artery, which was unrelated to the ulcer, her family said.

``She continues to improve, but she's still in critical condition,'' said her brother, Marshall Fernandez.

Huerta began working with Cesar Chavez in 1955 and co-founded the National Farm Workers Association _ the forerunner to the UFW _ with him in 1962. Chavez died in 1993.

Twelve years ago, Huerta suffered three broken ribs and a pulverized spleen and required more than a dozen blood transfusions after being caught between advancing police officers at a San Francisco rally protesting presidential candidate George Herbert Walker Bush's opposition to the UFW grape boycott.

The city paid about $850,000 to settle her lawsuit in what was the city's largest-ever police misconduct settlement.

Huerta stepped down as the UFW's secretary-treasurer in September to help campaign for Al Gore.

Last year she was honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights by President Clinton for her lifelong work as a labor activist.

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United Farm Workers: http://www.ufw.org/