President Hugo Chavez made his first public appearance since returning to Venezuela 11 days ago after completing what is supposed to be his final round of anti-cancer radiation treatment in Cuba.
The leftist head of state was in high spirits Tuesday as he chaired a two-hour Cabinet meeting that was broadcast live on all radio and television networks.
The session followed the pattern of Chavez's television show, "Alo Presidente," featuring remote feeds from officials in other parts of Venezuela and footage of current government projects.
Between discussions of official business and jokes with his ministers, he found time for pointed criticism of his opponent in the Oct. 7 presidential election, Henrique Capriles, who prevailed in a joint primary held by Venezuela's leading opposition parties.
"I believe the candidacy they chose was the worst of all, but that was what they chose," Chavez said of his electoral foe.
He also expressed regret that his cancer treatment prevented him from attending April's Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, where he would have liked to "say something" to U.S. President Barack Obama about "the madness of the Yankee empire and its European allies."
Referring to this week's deadly attack on Colombian troops by Colombian rebels based in Venezuela, Chavez said his government will not tolerate the presence of armed irregulars on Venezuelan soil.
Caracas mobilized troops on its side of the shared border after the rebel strike as a part of a coordinated effort with Bogota to apprehend the guerrillas.
"What we want for Colombia is peace," Chavez said.
Chavez spent April 30-May 10 in Cuba for radiation treatment that followed a Feb. 26 operation in Havana to have a second malignant tumor removed.
The first tumor was extracted last June, also in Cuba, where the president's cancer was first detected when he fell ill during an official visit.
Chavez has not released any details about the nature of the cancer, saying only that it was in his pelvic region.
In office since 1999, Chavez is seeking another six-year term in the October balloting. EFE