Chavez back in Venezuela after Cuba cancer treatment

AFP, Saturday 17 Mar 2012

Venezuelan leader returns home after spending three weeks in Cuban capital Havana undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (2nd L) arrives from Cuba at Simon Bolivar airport in Caracas March 16, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

President Hugo Chavez has returned to Venezuela after spending three weeks in Cuba where he underwent cancer surgery.

The Venezuelan leader, 57, was greeted by a military honor guard as he arrived at Maiquetia airport, Caracas at 8pm local time Friday (0030 GMT Saturday).

"I feel recovered enough," the Venezuelan leader said after his arrival. "The surgery of 26 February was successful, and we have been in the process of good recovery for a little over two weeks.

Chavez underwent surgery in Havana on 26 February to remove a cancerous tumor around the pelvis, the same area from where a first tumor was extracted in June 2011.

Officials in Caracas have never specified what type of cancer the president is suffering from, but they have denied the disease has spread to other organs.

In a Twitter message, Chavez said that he had lunch with his ally and friend Fidel Castro, the aging former Cuban leader, before his departure and that Cuban President Raul Castro bade him farewell at the airport.

Chavez said he would need a round of cancer radiotherapy to treat his condition, but insists he feels optimistic about his prospects.

Latin America's highest-profile leftist leader, who has been in power since 1999, faces a strong challenge in the 7 October presidential election from 39-year-old Henrique Capriles, the candidate of a unified opposition.

Chavez expressed confidence that he will win in October.

"We can breathe a Bolivarian victory on 7 October," he said. "Whatever they (the opposition) do, they will not be able to prevail."

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