Chávez returns home to mark 200th birthday

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has addressed thousands of cheering supporters from the balcony of his presidential palace in Caracas, hours after returning home from Cuba, where he underwent cancer surgery.

President Chávez discussed his health during the 30-minute speech Monday evening, telling the crowd he will win this battle for life. The president, who was wearing a green military uniform and red beret, also said he had to submit to strict medical treatment.

Many of his supporters waved the Venezuelan flag as well as banners bearing his image and at times, interrupted his speech with chants. At one point during the address, the president held up a small crucifix and kissed it.

The Venezuelan leader’s return to the South American country in the early-morning hours Monday came one day before the country celebrates the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Last week, President Chávez announced in a televised speech from Cuba that he underwent surgery there to remove a tumor with cancerous cells. He did not indicate the type of cancer he had, and questions remain about how sick he is. Prior to that surgery, Chávez underwent an operation in Cuba for what officials said was an abscess in his pelvic area.

Sunday, a Cuban government Web site posted a four-minute video of Chávez on the island. It showed him walking in an outdoor location and conversing with several people.

The 56-year-old Chávez looked thinner and less robust but was seen joking with his visitors, who included Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro. Chávez has ruled Venezuela since 1999.

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