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Chavez returns to Venezuela after treatment

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Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has returned to Caracas after 11 days of cancer treatment in Cuba, state television and officials say.

Chavez was seen chatting with his vice-president and other aides after arriving in the Venezuelan capital early on Thursday.

The popular president, who seeks to run for re-election for a six-year presidential term in October, has been undergoing radiation treatments in Cuba since late March. He was operated on in February to remove a second tumour from his pelvic region.

The first tumour was taken out in June last year, and he then underwent chemotherapy.

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

On Tuesday, he appeared on Venezuelan state television for the first time in 10 days - since his latest round of cancer treatment began - depicting relative good health and indicating that he remains vigorous despite his cancer treatment in Cuba.

"I feel very, very happy within this treatment process," Chavez said. "We continue in the treatment, facing the difficulties, governing, making decisions on policies."

'Foolish words, deaf ears'

Chavez held up a crucifix and kissed it, saying he has faith in God that his cancer treatments will be successful.

During the preceding week, he had communicated only through messages on Twitter and other written statements.

He urged supporters not to pay attention to rumours about his health, saying: "To foolish words, deaf ears."

In typical Chavez rhetoric, he chided the US government and, also praised Venezuela's voting system.

Critical of US President Barack Obama's recent comment that the US wants to see free and fair elections in Venezuela, Chavez said, "How is ... Obama going to say he hopes there are transparent elections? We hope there are transparent elections in the United States."

He also echoed remarks a day earlier by Tibisay Lucena, president of Venezuela's National Electoral Council, who said she believes Venezuela's automated voting system is more thoroughly audited than elections in the US.

Venezuela's voting system is sophisticated, trustworthy and transparent, she said.


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