Chavez returns to Venezuela after Cuban cancer treatment
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela on Wednesday, saying he's "doing very well" following cancer treatment in Cuba.
After flying in to Simon Bolivar International Airport, Chavez met with several of his aides and political allies at the presidential palace in downtown Caracas.
Chavez and one of his confidantes, Jose Vicente Rangel, chatted about an April 11, 2002, coup that briefly ousted the socialist leader. Chavez said the military rebellion failed because thousands of his supporters took to the streets to demand his return to power while numerous military officers remained loyal and rescued him from dissident generals who had flown him to a Caribbean island.
Hundreds of Chavez's supporters celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the rebellion earlier on Wednesday, marching through downtown Caracas, chanting pro-government slogans and waving red, yellow and blue Venezuelan flags.
Opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, criticised Chavez's allies for commemorating the coup, saying Venezuelans should condemn all military uprisings aimed at ousting a president.
"All coups are bad, all of them," Capriles said. "There are no good coups because in the end they are all a breakdown of the constitution."
Chavez flew to Cuba last week for his third round of radiation therapy. He began the treatments in late March after having a tumour removed. He plans to have a total of five rounds in hopes of preventing a recurrence of his illness.
The president says he's been recovering well since surgery in February that removed a second tumour from his pelvic region.
He has regularly travelled to and from Cuba for cancer treatment since last June, when he says an initial surgery removed his first tumour, which was the size of a baseball.
Chavez has not identified the type of cancer or the precise location where the two tumours were.
The 57-year-old leader has vowed to overcome cancer and win re-election on Oct. 7. His political foes argue Chavez is not fit to continue governing the country because his health is failing – an allegation the president vehemently denies.
"We have less than six months before Oct 7, let's get ready," said Chavez, urging government supporters to gear of for the crucial vote.
Chavez, a former paratroop commander whose backers affectionately call him "El Comandante," also warned his adversaries not to attempt to spur upheaval in the streets or engineer another coup attempt as a means of impeding the election.
"Don't consider it again, it's my advice for you," he said.
"We cannot let our guard down for even a moment in order to guarantee peace in Venezuela," Chavez added. "It's time to strengthen unity."
Earlier on Wednesday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Chavez would attend this weekend's Summit of the Americas only if his doctors give him the green light to travel to Colombia's coastal city of Cartagena.
"It depends on his health, and depends on the doctors," said Santos, who spoke with Chavez by telephone on Sunday.
Chavez did not mention the summit during Wednesday's televised address that lasted more than an hour.