CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that he's improving after undergoing a second round of chemotherapy in Cuba to treat his cancer, and boasted that he's never felt healthier.
"I could stand here talking for five hours," Chavez said during a televised appearance that lasted about 20 minutes.
Though he used to regularly speak for five hours or longer, he has scaled back the length of his speeches recently, saying he is under strict doctors' orders.
The socialist leader, who returned from Cuba on Saturday, has said he doesn't know yet if he will need a third round of chemotherapy. He also has said his medical team will eventually consider whether he needs radiation treatment.
"I'm doing very well. In fact, I've never been better," Chavez told journalists after a meeting at the presidential palace with Maria Emma Mejia, secretary-general of South America's UNASUR organization.
"It's not serious," he said of his illness. He added that "I don't have metastasis," the medical term for the spread of cancer from one organ to another.
Chavez, who appeared on the steps of the palace with his head completely shaven, said he has been taking extremely good care of himself since the cancer was diagnosed. "Everybody knows chemotherapy has a tough impact and for that reason I must be very careful everyday regarding an infection, a germ, a virus."
Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June to remove a cancerous tumor. He has said the tumor was located in the pelvic region but has not disclosed what type of cancer was found. He gave no further details Tuesday.
The president praised UNASUR for developing initiatives aimed at making South America less dependent on powerful countries, singling out as an example the Bank of the South, a regional development bank supported by seven South American nations. It was launched in 2009 with startup capital of $20 billion.
"We are innovating. We're tired of copying foreign models," Chavez said.
"Look how they are demonstrating their failure," he added, referring to the economies of the United States and Europe that have been bogged down in a weekslong financial crisis.
Mejia, a prominent Colombian politician who is visiting presidents throughout the region to discuss initiatives aimed at further developing economic and political integration efforts, said she and Chavez talked about ways of strengthening the Bank of the South.
South American leaders are examining novel means of "building a world from our own perspective," Mejia said.
UNASUR was created in May 2008 to serve as a continental organization that Chavez has described as a counterweight to the United States.
Some members of the Organization of American States see UNASUR as a complement to the Washington-based organization. Chavez and several of his leftist allies view it as a potential rival to the OAS, which they claim falls under the influence of the United States.