Chavez returns to Venezuela from Cuba after chemo

Updated: 2011-07-24 19:43


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CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he soldiered through his first week of chemotherapy in Cuba with only minor discomfort but that a long process of additional treatment lies ahead as he confronts cancer.

Chavez returns to Venezuela from Cuba after chemo

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (C) gestures after his arrival from Cuba, at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas July 23, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Chavez, 56, made an unannounced return to Venezuela late Saturday after spending a week in Cuba undergoing treatment. He strode away from the plane down a red carpet while troops stood at attention.

"This body of mine, of a cadet and a soldier, held up," Chavez said on television after his arrival, adding that he had "some small discomfort."

"It's a hard treatment. It finished yesterday. Today a little bit of rest and here we are," he said. Chavez said he is ready to "continue the battle."

State television broadcast footage of Chavez being greeted at the airport by Vice President Elias Jaua and other ministers.

Chavez said the chemotherapy in the past week went well but that risks remain and he expects his treatments to continue for an extended period. He did not say how long.

"It's important that the Venezuelan people don't believe that everything is done," Chavez said. "We're in a complete process of fighting very hard, and it takes its time. We're winning it and we'll win it, but it takes its time and its rhythms."

The president underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor, which he said was the size of a baseball. He hasn't said what type of cancer he has been diagnosed with or specified where exactly it was located, saying only that it was in his pelvic region. He says chemotherapy is necessary to ensure cancer cells don't reappear.

Chavez said that a day after he arrived in Cuba on July 16, he underwent "intense studies that they call medical imaging." He said 126 images showed that "no presence of malignant cells was detected in any part of my body."

"In any case the risk exists," Chavez added. "For that reason the chemotherapy, which was given to me the whole week in various sessions."

Chavez said Friday that he had successfully completed a "first cycle" of chemotherapy and will next begin the second of various additional stages. He did not say when the next series of chemotherapy treatments would begin.

Chavez said Fidel Castro, who has been at his side throughout much of his treatment, had suggested that the Venezuelan leader closely follow his doctors' orders and be conscious that his health is still at risk.

Chavez said that "for my complete return, I should be disciplined."

During the past week in Cuba, Chavez was largely out of the public eye but kept up a steady stream of messages on his Twitter account, ranging from government announcements to cheering for the national soccer team.

While in Cuba during the past week, Chavez also received visits by Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, and Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona.

Chavez said that before leaving Havana for Caracas on Saturday, he also met with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.

Upon his arrival in Caracas on Saturday night, Chavez said: "I address the country from my heart to express my immense happiness and gladness to be in Venezuela after one week."

"Throughout this week, I haven't lost an instant in my attention to Venezuela on what happens, the problems, the solutions," he said.

The leftist president, who has been in power since 1999, has said he intends to run for re-election in late 2012 despite his illness.

"After this week of intense work in Cuba with a quality Venezuelan and Cuban medical team, I should tell you... that I've come back better than I left," he said.

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