CARACAS, VENEZUELA: President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela early Monday after more than two months of treatment in Cuba following cancer surgery, his government said, triggering street celebrations by supporters who welcomed him home while he remained out of sight at Caracas’ military hospital.
Chavez’s return was announced in a series of three messages on his Twitter account, the first of them reading: “We’ve arrived once again in our Venezuelan homeland. Thank you, my God!! Thank you, beloved nation!! We will continue our treatment here.”
They were the first messages to appear on Chavez’s Twitter account since Nov. 1.
“I’m clinging to Christ and trusting in my doctors and nurses,” another tweet on Chavez’s account said. “Onward toward victory always!! We will live and we will triumph!!”
Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on television that Chavez arrived at 2:30 a.m. and was taken to the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas, where he will continue his treatment.
Chavez’s announced return to Caracas came less than three days after the government released the first photos of the president in more than two months, showing him looking bloated and smiling alongside his daughters. The government didn’t release any additional images of Chavez upon his arrival in Caracas, and unanswered questions remain about where he stands in a difficult and prolonged struggle with an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer.
Chavez, 58, was re-elected to a new six-year term in October, and his inauguration, originally scheduled for Jan. 10, was indefinitely postponed by lawmakers in a decision that the Supreme Court upheld despite complaints by the opposition. Some speculated that with Chavez back, he could finally be sworn in.
Government officials didn’t address that possibility.
The vice president later presided over a televised Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace, though he didn’t offer additional details about Chavez. “He will live and he will triumph,” Maduro said at the end of the meeting, while on television an image of Chavez’s face was superimposed on the oval-shaped table.
A giant inflated Chavez doll was placed beside a corner of the National Assembly building.
Hundreds of Chavez supporters celebrated his return in downtown Caracas, chanting his name and holding photos of the president in Bolivar Plaza. A man holding a megaphone boomed: “Our commander has returned!”
Fireworks exploded in some parts of Caracas while the president’s followers celebrated.