Venezuela's Chavez returns home from Cuba

Supporters of Hugo Chavez celebrate in Caracas after the president vows to finish cancer treatment in his country.
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2013 12:10

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has returned home to Venezuela after more than two months of medical treatment in Cuba after cancer surgery.

Chavez, 58, announced his return in a series of messages on Monday on his Twitter account, and aides confirmed the news.

They were the first messages to appear on the president's account since November 1.

"We have arrived back in the Venezuelan fatherland. Thanks, my God! Thanks, my beloved people! Here we will continue the treatment," Chavez said via Twitter.

"I'm clinging to Christ and trusting in my doctors and nurses," he said in another tweet.

"Onward toward victory always!! We will live and we will triumph!!"

There had been speculation that Chavez was not well enough to travel despite wanting to return to his homeland for continued treatment for the disease he was first diagnosed with in mid-2011.

Upon his return, he was immediately taken to the military hospital in Caracas, where the Venezuelan government had set aside an area in front of the hospital so that people could "be close to Chavez".

Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher, reporting from Caracas, described jubilant scenes outside the military hospital.

"About 150 Chavez supporters have gathered here at the hospital, which is the closest they've come to their beloved leader in just over two months. But this was no jubilant return; under the cover of darkness, just tweeting that he was back on Venezuelan soil. Nobody has actually seen the man himself."

Fireworks celebration

Fireworks could be heard going off in some neighbourhoods of Caracas as the news spread and celebrations begun among Chavistas.

Venezuelan ministers were jubilant, one singing "He's back, he's back!" live on state TV.

Henrique Capriles, the opposition’s de facto leader who lost to Chavez in the October elections, welcomed the president back to Venezuela.

"Let’s hope that the president’s return means that [Vice President Nicolas] Maduro and the ministers get to work, there are thousands of problems to solve," he tweeted.

Chavez named Maduro as his successor before he left Venezuela for his operation, and the vice president has been in charge of the country since then.

Given that ministers said the president wanted to return when he was well enough to travel, Chavez's arrival implied some improvement in his condition, at least enough to handle a flight of several hours.

But aides have emphasised in recent days his state remains "complex".

Chavez underwent a six-hour operation in Cuba on December 11 - his fourth for the cancer first detected in his pelvic area in June, 2011.

He had not been seen or heard in public since then until photos were published of him on Friday, showing him lying in hospital.

Officials said he was breathing through a tracheal tube and struggling to speak.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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