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Chavez makes energetic homecoming after surgery

The Venezuelan president rallied thousands of supporters who welcomed him home after receiving cancer treatment in Cuba.

Chavez with a Venezuelan flag at his presidential palace earlier today
Chavez with a Venezuelan flag at his presidential palace earlier today
Image: AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

PRESIDENT HUGO CHAVEZ led an energetic homecoming celebration in Venezuela today, rallying thousands of supporters from a balcony of the presidential palace after three weeks in Cuba for cancer surgery.

Chavez turned the event into a campaign rally, vowing to win re-election in the 7 October  presidential vote and demanding unity from his followers.

Returning to the combativeness that has characterized much of his 13-year presidency, Chavez insulted his opponents and denounced a state governor who recently broke ranks with his party as a “traitor to the revolution.”

The president referred to his health only briefly, saying he will start radiation therapy treatment in the coming days “in order to attack any new threat.”

“This cancer can’t beat Chavez either!” he shouted to the crowd during the hourlong speech.

He gesticulated emphatically as he warned that his opponents cannot be trusted.

“We have to work very hard, be very united, very alert, very conscious of the risks that always exist when you’re going to confront people who always fight dirty, and behind them there’s also a lot of power — the Yankee (U.S.) empire, the CIA,” Chavez said.

Supporters below chanted: “The people are with you!”

Chavez waved, blew kisses and raised a fist when he appeared on the balcony, then took the microphone and sang along with a Venezuelan folk song while a band played.

“Long live Venezuela!” Chavez told the crowd, flanked by his aides. He reiterated that his latest cancer surgery in Cuba was successful, and said he feels a “commitment to you all to live.”

His supporters cheered, beat drums and waved flags, chanting “Take care of yourself!” Some in the crowd wore T-shirts with Chavez’s face emblazoned on them. Others said they’re praying for the president’s health.

Treatment

Chavez spent three weeks in Cuba, leaving many Venezuelans wondering about his long-term prospects and about how his health will evolve ahead of the election. Chavez has kept secret some details of his illness, such as the type of cancer, spurring speculation.

The president has said his 26 February surgery in Cuba removed a tumour from the same location in the pelvic region where another tumour was removed in June.

After he was diagnosed with cancer, Chavez underwent an initial surgery in June that removed a tumor the size of a baseball.

He then had four rounds of chemotherapy and said tests showed no signs of any cancerous cells. But last month, he announced he was returning to Cuba for surgery to have a lesion removed.

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Associated Press

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