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Chavez returns from Cuba

China Daily/Agencies | Updated: 2013-02-19 09:39

Aides say leader is 'fighting for his life' after two months of medical treatment

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise return from Cuba on Monday more than two months after surgery for cancer that has jeopardized his 14-year rule of the South American OPEC member.

The 58-year-old leader underwent a six-hour operation in Cuba on Dec 11. He had not been seen or heard in public since then until photos were published of him on Friday.

Chavez returns from Cuba

A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez kisses a picture of him as she takes part in a gathering at Plaza Bolivar in Caracas Feb 18, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

"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 after flying in.

There had been speculation Chavez was too unwell to travel despite wanting to return for continued treatment for the disease he was first diagnosed with in mid-2011.

Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez flew in at about 2:30 am local time from Havana.

From the airport, he was taken to Carlos Avarela Military Hospital in Caracas where he will continue his medical treatment, said his son-in-law and Science and Technology Minister Jorge Arreaza.

His overnight arrival thrilled supporters in the nation of 29 million people, where his common touch and welfare policies have made him an idol to the poor.

"It's fabulous news, the best thing possible. Venezuela was waiting for him, everyone wants to see him. Welcome home! Thank God he's back!" Chavez's cousin, Guillermo Frias said.

It was unclear whether Chavez hopes to return to active rule, or will try to smooth a transition. He has named Maduro, a 50-year-old former bus driver, as his preferred successor.

"I remain attached to Christ and trusting in my nurses and doctors. Onwards to victory forever! We will live and we will conquer!" Chavez also Tweeted, adding his thanks to Cuban leaders Raul and Fidel Castro for his treatment there.

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