Chavez says he will be fit and ready to fight the 2012 presidential election [Reuters]  

President Hugo Chavez has returned to Venezuela a week after leaving for chemotherapy in Cuba.

Cuban doctors said no malignant cells were found and that he was arriving home in better health than when he arrived on the island last weekend.

Chavez said he was now preparing for the second of various phases of the treatment, he was previously in Cuba in June, where he had a tumour removed.

"It's a day of joy for me, of happiness, I have no doubt, for the great majority of our people," said Chavez in a brief speech on his arrival in Caracas on Sunday which was broadcast live on state TV.

"I have come back better than I left, thanks to God."

Chavez said his doctors in Venezuela found no malignant cells before he left for Havana last Saturday, and that his Cuban doctors confirmed that during "rigorous" tests.

The president had said on Friday that he was preparing for a second round of chemotherapy.

It was not clear when he might travel back to the communist-led Caribbean island as the guest of his friend and mentor, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

"It is important that the Venezuelan people should not think that everything is over ... it is a clear process, a hard fight," the president said at Maiquetia Airport, flanked by his vice president and several government ministers."

Before leaving for Cuba for the latest treatment, Chavez delegated some of his presidential powers to his ministers.

It was the first such move from the president since he took office 12 years ago, but he resisted opposition calls to hand over all of his powers during the absence.

'Great victory'

During his 12 years in power, Chavez has built up deep support among the poor following high spending on social programmes.

But there are growing problems, including high inflation, frequent electricity shortages and a lack of affordable housing.

In terms of the popular vote, parliamentary elections last September showed the country split down the middle between Chavez supporters and opponents.

Now, a fractious opposition coalition senses a chance to unseat Chavez in 2012.

Chavez, who spoke on state television on Friday from Cuba, said he was confident of winning a fourth term in power.

"I will live, I promise you. And we are headed for the great victory of 2012," said Chavez.

Source: Agencies