Venezuelan leader Chavez addresses crowds in Caracas after return from cancer surgery


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (C) embraces his daughters Maria (L) and Rosa at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. Chavez returned to Venezuela Monday after spending three weeks in Cuba, where he had a cancerous tumor extirpated.


Juan Barreto

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez vowed Monday to win his "battle" against cancer in an emotional address to adoring supporters in Caracas, after his surprise homecoming from surgery in Cuba to remove a tumor.

The 56-year-old appeared on the balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace where thousands of people had gathered after his return to his homeland earlier in the day.

"Long live life, long live Chavez!" the populist leader shouted, according to Reuters.

Sporting his military uniform, he sang the national anthem and talked unaided for more than half an hour.

"Let nobody think my presence here today, July 4, means that we have won," he said.

"I swear that we will win the battle."

As some of his supporters wept, he said his time in Cuba was "not easy" and warned that his treatment was not over.

"The return has begun... This is the best medicine for whatever illness," he said, the BBC reported.

He held up a crucifix, saying: "Christ is with us!"

Draped in the red of his ruling Socialist party, the crowd chanted: "Oh, no! Chavez won't go!"

Venezuelan state television earlier showed Chavez leaving Havana, where he was seen off by Cuban leader Raul Castro. He was then greeted by government ministers upon his arrival at Maiquetia airport, outside Caracas, at 2am local time.

Later in the morning, in a telephone interview aired on state TV, Chavez said he had spent "very difficult days" in Cuba, but that his recovery was going well, and his first priority was his treatment schedule.

The BBC reported that it "seemed that the government had deliberately wanted to surprise the country with his return."

Chavez had been in Cuba since June 8, and his return came a day before Venezuela marks the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Owing to strict medical conditions, Chavez said he would not be able to take part in Tuesday's independence day parade, but would watch it from the presidential palace.