Chavez underwent cancer treatment in Cuba where a baseball-sized tumour was removed from his abdomen [Reuters]

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez declared himself cancer-free, four months after surgery to remove a cancerous tumour that shook the South American nation ahead of a 2012 presidential vote.

"I am free of illness," Chavez, 57, said in an address to Venezuelans on Thursday after touching down from Cuba in a western state where he plans to make a pilgrimage to a Catholic shrine.

Despite the ebullient socialist's declarations, most experts say it is impossible for a cancer patient to be considered out of danger until at least two years after treatment.

Dressed in green military uniform and speaking confidently, Chavez said tests he undertook in Cuba this week had shown there were no malignant cells in his body following four cycles of chemotherapy after a June 20 abdomen operation in Havana.

"A vital stage has concluded," headded. "The new Chavez is back ... We will live and we will continue living."

Chavez has ruled Venezuela for nearly 13 years and has vowed to emerge triumphant again in presidential elections in October 2012.

Source: Agencies