Home again, Chavez salutes Venezuelans on independence

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.

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