Latest update: 24/07/2011
- cancer - health - Hugo Chavez - Venezuela
Chavez returns home 'cancer free' after treatment in Cuba
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to his country Saturday from a week-long chemotherapy treatment in Cuba after he had had a malignant tumour removed in June. In a televised speech, he said that he was now clear of cancerous cells.
By NEWS WIRES (text)
REUTERS - President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela on Saturday a week after leaving for chemotherapy in Cuba, saying no malignant cells were found and that he was arriving home in better health than when he left.
News that the 56-year-old socialist leader underwent surgery in Havana last month to remove a baseball-sized cancerous tumor has called into question his fitness to run for
re-election next year in the OPEC nation.
“It’s a day of joy for me, of happiness, I have no doubt, for the great majority of our people,” he said in a brief speech at the capital’s airport broadcast live by state TV.
“I have come back better than I left, thanks to God.”
He said his doctors in Venezuela found no malignant cells before he left for Havana last Saturday, and that his Cuban doctors confirmed that during “rigorous” tests on Sunday.
Chavez had said on Friday he was preparing for a second round of chemotherapy. It was not clear when he might travel back to the communist-led Caribbean island as the guest of his friend and mentor, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
“It is important that the Venezuelan people should not think that everything is over ... it is a clear process, a hard fight,” the president said at Maiquetia Airport, flanked by his vice president and several government ministers.
“No malignant cells were found in any part of my body ... The risk exists, so chemotherapy was applied to me all week in various sessions ... Here I am, to continue the battle.”
He had two operations last month that he described as complicated: the first for a pelvic abscess and another to remove the tumor. He was away almost a month until returning home a day before Venezuela’s 200th independence celebration.
A former soldier whose workaholic leadership style and image of invincibility have helped him win numerous votes, Chavez is visibly weakened as he plans his re-election bid.
Parliamentary elections last September showed the South American country split down the middle between Chavez supporters and opponents. Now, a fractious opposition coalition senses a chance to unseat the convalescing leader in 2012.
At the airport on Saturday, Chavez looked tired but back to his folksy self, joking about the Venezuelan soccer team’s exit from the Copa America tournament after they had a goal ruled out for offside in Wednesday’s semi-final against Paraguay.
The team, long seen as the continent’s weakest, shocked everyone by reaching the last four of the tournament, forging a rare moment of unity in a politically polarized nation.
He said Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, who visited him in Havana on Friday, told him the goal should have stood.
“Maradona says the goal against Paraguay was valid,” Chavez said. “For me, our Vinotinto (Venezuelan national team) were the only champions of the Copa America ... heroic, historic.”