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Venezuela's Chavez makes surprise return home from Cuba

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 18 Feb 2013 09:55 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds quotes from Chavez, ministers)

CARACAS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise return from Cuba on Monday more than two months after cancer surgery that threatens to end his 14-year rule of the South American OPEC member, he and ministers said.

The 58-year-old socialist leader underwent a six-hour operation in Cuba on Dec. 11. He had not been seen or heard in public since then until photos were published of him on Friday.

"We have arrived back in the Venezuelan fatherland. Thanks, my God! Thanks, my beloved people! Here we will continue the treatment," Chavez said via Twitter. Aides confirmed the news.

There had been speculation Chavez was unwell enough to travel despite wanting to return to his homeland for continued treatment for the disease he was first diagnosed with in mid-2011.

But Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez flew in at about 2.30 a.m. local time from Havana and was in a military hospital in Caracas.

"I remain attached to Christ and trusting in my nurses and doctors. Onwards to victory forever! We will live and we will conquer!" Chavez also Tweeted, adding his thanks to Cuban leaders Raul and Fidel Castro for his treatment there.

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

"We're so happy," Maduro said. (Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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