CARACAS, (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez saluted his people on their 200th anniversary of independence yesterday, looking pale but defiant after a triumphant return from cancer surgery in Cuba.
Ordinarily, the 56-year-old would have been out watching the parades of troops, tanks and fighter jets marking the bicentennial of the end of Spanish colonial rule. Instead, he gave a brief address from inside his presidential palace.
“Here I am — in recovery but still recovering,” he said.
Chavez hinted he hoped to prolong his rule for many years to come, urging supporters to join a “new, long march” to another bicentennial celebration in 2021 of a famous battle.
His return from Havana has let him reassert political control over the South American OPEC member. But it has not dispelled concerns his illness could curb his ability to rule, or to campaign for a presidential election due next year.
The socialist leader had a cancerous tumor removed and it is unclear whether malignant cells spread. He needs “strict” medical treatment but has vowed to win his health battle.
One source close to Chavez’s medical team told Reuters the president could have colon cancer in an advanced condition that would require chemotherapy for several months.
His doctors recommend he should be treated in Venezuela, the source said, where a wing of the Military Hospital has been prepared for him. The chemotherapy would start once Chavez was fully recovered from the operations, the source added.
There was no confirmation of that, and the only official details of Chavez’s condition have been given by himself.