Venezuela President Hugo Chavez returned home on Thursday, March 29, after a first session of radiation treatment in Cuba that he hopes will cure his cancer and allow him to win a new six-year term in October, Reuters reported.
The 57-year-old socialist leader has said he will be flying back and forth to Havana over the coming weeks as he undergoes therapy, removing himself from the political stage just as his election rival gears up his campaign.
Very little is known about Chavez’s condition – he has had three cancer operations in less than a year – so doubts remain about the future of the man who has dominated politics in South America’s biggest oil exporter for the last 13 years.
“It’s a hard battle … I’m good and will continue to be good. I’ve taken the treatment very well, thanks to God,” he said during an hour-long pre-dawn speech broadcast on state TV from the Miraflores presidential palace.
The opposition has demanded the president appoint a temporary leader to run the government during his absences in Cuba, something that Chavez has repeatedly rejected.
“I may have reduced my speed, but the government has accelerated … there is no power vacuum,” he said on Thursday.
He said he expected to return to Cuba on Saturday to resume the radiation treatment, and to stay there for four more days.
The president started the radiation therapy last Saturday, saying he would undergo one session a day for five consecutive days, then fly home to rest for a couple of days. Overall, Chavez has said, the treatment should last four or five weeks.
He previously underwent four sessions of chemotherapy that caused him to lose his hair. It has since has grown back.