CARACAS — Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez made a theatrical return from Cuba today after medical treatment, walking and joking in a first public appearance for three weeks that quashed rumours he may have been at death’s door.
“I’m happy and enthused to be back again,” Chavez said after flying in overnight to the delight of supporters.
“So, where’s the party?” Chavez joked, in festive mood as he chatted with ministers after walking unaided down the steps from his plane at the international airport outside Caracas.
The 58-year-old socialist leader has had three cancer operations in Cuba since mid-2011 and returned to Havana ten days ago to receive “hyperbaric oxygenation” — a treatment normally used to alleviate bone decay from radiation therapy.
But speculation was rife he may have suffered a recurrence of the disease.
One local journalist said he was confined to a wheelchair.
Earlier this year, Chavez declared himself “completely cured” and went on to comfortably win re-election in October.
Amid a barrage of rumours, officials had maintained his latest trip to Cuba was just a scheduled follow-up to the radiation therapy he underwent in the first half of 2012.
Supporters celebrated the return of the man who has dominated the South American OPEC nation since he first won election in 1998. (Reuters)