President Chavez handing out land titles to peasants in Venezuela. The Bolivarian Revolutionary government has extended home heating oil assistance to poor communities in the United States., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Chavez returns to Venezuela
Tuesday, 05 July 2011 01:00
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez made a surprise homecoming from Cuba yesterday and declared himself "fine" despite speculation his cancer may still require lengthy treatment.
"I'm happy . . . I'm going to get some rest," a bubbly-sounding Chavez told state TV by telephone after touching down in the early hours of the morning.
Elated supporters took to the streets of Caracas within minutes, chanting: "He's back! He's back!".
Chavez's return changes the political dynamics once again in Venezuela, where politicians on all sides had been bracing for a protracted months-long absence of the man who has dominated the OPEC member nation for the last 12 years.
The 56-year-old president jetted in just in time for two days of celebrations of Venezuela's 200th anniversary of independence from Spain.
State media showed video footage of Chavez bidding farewell to Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana and then being greeted by ebullient ministers at Maiquetia Airport outside Caracas.
"I'm fine. I feel well," Chavez said, punching a fist in the air as he emerged from his airplane.
"I'm back at the epicentre of Bolivar," he added, in reference to his idol Simon Bolivar, a hero of Venezuela's and South America's fight for independence from Spanish rule. Despite supporters' euphoria, Chavez's exact condition remains unclear, and he may still face lengthy treatment in Venezuela. A military hospital was prepared for his arrival.
Chavez said it was "the start of the return," implying to some analysts that he may keep a low profile in Venezuela or even return to Cuba for further cycles of treatment. - Reuters.