Published December 07, 2012
After 10 days of medical treatment in Cuba, Hugo Chávez returned back home to Caracas early Friday.
State television showed images of Chávez arriving at Caracas' airport and walking down the steps of the presidential jet wearing a track suit. Chávez smiled and laughed heartily as he chatted with members of his Cabinet, including Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
Chávez traveled to Cuba on the night of Nov. 27 after announcing plans to undergo hyperbaric oxygen treatment in Havana. The Venezuelan leader has spent much of the past 18 months fighting pelvic cancer; he said several months ago that he was cancer-free.
While in Cuba, he kept a low profile and did not speak on television. Chávez last appeared publicly during a televised meeting on Nov. 15 in Caracas, and his long absence had renewed speculation among some Venezuelans that his health might be taking a turn for the worse.
But Chávez appeared vigorous as he spoke on television upon his arrival before 3 a.m. He didn't refer to his health, and focused instead on his gladness at being back.
"I'm very happy, as you all can see, to be arriving here again," Chávez said. "Very happy."
Chávez noted that Thursday marked two months since his Oct. 7 re-election win. Addressing Maduro and recalling other election victories, Chávez said: "Look at how we've come, Nicolás, from victory to victory."
Chávez hasn't given details recently about the hyperbaric oxygen treatment, during which patients breathe pure oxygen while in a pressurized, sealed chamber. The treatment's value is well-established for treating burns and some other medical conditions, and to aid wound healing and help repair bone and tissue damaged by radiation treatments.
The 58-year-old president first underwent cancer surgery in Cuba in June 2011 and later underwent another surgery in February. He has also undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and has since said that tests show he's recovered.
Throughout his treatments, Chávez has kept many details of his illness secret, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors.
Chávez skipped a meeting in Brasilia on Friday with leaders of the South American trade bloc Mercosur. The Brazilian government said that Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez would instead be representing his government at the meeting.
Chávez said his departure from Cuba had been delayed by a conversation with Fidel Castro, with whom he had been discussing poetry.
The Venezuelan leader also referred to the country's upcoming state gubernatorial elections on Dec. 16, saying: "We're eight days away from the next victory."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.