19 Feb 2013

Chavez now back in Venezuela

5:50 am on 19 February 2013

President Hugo Chavez is home again in Venezuela following cancer surgery in Cuba.

Mr Chavez, 58, made the announcement in a Twitter message, saying he will continue his treatment in Venezeula. He also thanked Venezuelans for their support.

The president also expressed his gratitude to Cuba and its leaders for their assistance in his medical treatment:

"Thank you Fidel, Raul and everybody in Cuba," he wrote in a second message, referring to Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro. "And thank you, Venezuela, for so much love."

As before, he underscored his belief in God and hopes for complete recovery:

"I am holding on to Jesus Christ and trust my doctors and nurses," Mr Chavez said in a third message. "As always, see you in victory. We will live and we will win."

He has been president for 14 years and was re-elected for another six years in October 2012, but his swearing-in was delayed because of his illness.

Mr Chavez went to Havana for surgery on 11 December. It was his fourth operation in 18 months for cancer which was first diagnosed in mid-2011.

He is reported to have had tumours removed from his pelvic region. He has underwent prior rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Mr Chavez flew in at about 2:30am on Monday from Havana and was in a military hospital in Caracas, where a crowd quickly gathered, chanting slogans and dancing.

Fireworks were set off in some Caracas neighborhoods as news spread and celebrations began among "Chavistas."

Government ministers were jubilant with one singing "He's back, he's back!" live on state TV.

On Friday, the government published photos showing Chavez lying in a hospital. Officials said he was breathing through a tracheal tube and struggling to speak.