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Chavez returns to Venezuela after cancer surgery in Cuba

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:13 AM EDT, Sat March 17, 2012
  • NEW: "I have returned ... with an indomitable force," Chavez says
  • Chavez has said he will undergo radiation treatment
  • Doctors removed a cancerous tumor late last month
  • Chavez has not specified the type of cancer he is battling

Caracas, Venezuela (CNN) -- President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela on Friday after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba.

He stepped from the plane, embracing many who had gathered to greet him, smiling and shaking hands.

"I have returned again, with an indomitable force," Chavez told supporters at the airport in an address broadcast by the Venezuelan state-run news channel VTV.

The tumor Cuban doctors removed late last month was smaller than another tumor removed in June, Chavez said in an earlier statement.

The Venezuelan president has said he will undergo radiation treatment.

He has not specified the type of cancer he is battling, and the government has released few specifics, fueling widespread speculation about his health and political future.

The outspoken, flamboyant socialist leader has led Venezuela since 1999 and has pledged to run for re-election in October.

"We can only speculate about Mr. Chavez's particular case, but in any circumstance when there is recurrence of cancer like this, one has to be fairly guarded about prognosis," said Charles Fuchs, a professor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in gastrointestinal cancers.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann contributed to this report.