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Hugo Chavez, Venezuela President, Returns Home After Cancer Treatment In Cuba

By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER 05/12/12 12:48 AM ET AP

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned home Friday after 11 days of cancer treatment in Cuba, saying his latest round of radiation therapy was successful.

"I should say that we have successfully completed the medical treatment," the socialist leader said as dozens of uniformed soldiers holding assault rifles stood in formation along a red carpet on the tarmac at Simon Bolivar International Airport.

"Of course, I must rigorously follow the medical advice in these coming days in order to continue recuperating," he said.

"Aside from some discomforts that are normal in this type of treatment, absolutely nothing occurred that forced it to be stopped, suspended or make changes to the initial plan," added Chavez, disclaiming rumors that complications arose during his treatment.

State television broadcast live footage of Chavez greeting and chatting with Vice President Elias Jaua, Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva and Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami and other aides after he stepped off the plane.

Chavez, 57, traveled to Cuba on April 30 for further radiation therapy.

The socialist leader looked energetic and seemed to be in good spirits, breaking out in song before finishing his nationally televised address.

He began the treatments in late March after an operation in February that he says removed a second tumor from his pelvic region. The first tumor was taken out in an operation last June.

Chavez has kept some details of his illness a secret, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors.

The president's treatment has forced him to slow his daily routine and prevented him from actively campaigning as he has in the past. Opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, meanwhile, has been traveling across this South American country for weeks to drum up support ahead of an Oct. 7 presidential election.

Chavez vowed to invigorate his campaign.

"As the hours and days pass, I'm sure that with God's favor, medical science and this soldier's body that envelops me, I will get back to where I must be, in the front line of the battle, alongside the Venezuelan people, promoting the socialist revolution."

Upon his return, Chavez accused his political adversaries of leading an international campaign aimed at raising doubts regarding his commitment to democracy.

He also claimed that opposition groups are planning to stir up violent political upheaval ahead of the upcoming vote. He did not provide details or single out any particular organization.

The president was echoing accusations against government foes that his allies have made recently.

Capriles told journalists earlier Friday that he opposes any type of violence.

"I'm against any type of violence, no matter where it comes from," said Capriles, speaking during a campaign event in the president's home state of Barinas.

During his stay in Havana, Chavez discussed means of accelerating Venezuela's drive toward socialism with Fidel Castro, one of his political mentors.

"The transition to socialism requires increased social justice and equality every day," he said. "Yesterday, I was speaking with my colleague and comrade Fidel about these issues."

Chavez thanked Cuban President Raul Castro and his elder brother for providing medical care as he attempts to overcome his illness.

"I want to thank Fidel, Raul and all of Cuba: Their solidarity, attention, generation," he said, prompting applause from a small crowd present at the airport.

Under Chavez, Venezuela and Cuba have become close allies while relations between Caracas and Washington have soured.

___

Associated Press writer Jorge Rueda contributed to this report.

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