Chavez Returns to Venezuela After Cancer Surgery in Cuba

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived in Caracas yesterday following surgery in Cuba to remove a second cancerous tumor from his pelvic area.

Dressed in a black sports jacket over a red polo neck shirt, Chavez descended from the plane flanked by his mother and two eldest daughters to be greeted by ministers on the tarmac. During a 30-minute speech he said he’d followed events in Venezuela closely from Cuba and felt reinvigorated, while revealing little about his operation or plans to receive radiotherapy.

“Each day my spirit gives me more strength and will to live, more will to fight and more will to win and triumph against adversary and difficulties,” Chavez said in comments broadcast across all channels in Venezuela. “I have promised you: I will live.”

He said he’ll address supporters from a balcony in the presidential palace today.

Chavez, who has refused to reveal exactly what kind of cancer he has or allow access to medical records, has insisted his health problems won’t prevent him from running in an election on Oct. 7 in which he’s seeking to extend his thirteen years in power until 2019.

Malignant Recurrence

He said last week that doctors in Cuba on Feb. 26 removed a two-centimeter “lesion” from the same area where a larger tumor was removed in June. Doctors determined it was probably a malignant recurrence that hasn’t spread to other parts of his body, Chavez said March 4. He will probably undergo a course of radiation treatment once the scarring process finishes, he said in the pre-recorded speech from Havana.

The operation was the third he’s undergone in eight months since an abscess in his pelvic area was discovered during a visit to Cuba in June. Following surgery to drain the abscess, Chavez underwent a second operation to remove a baseball-sized tumor.

During nearly three weeks of convalescing on the communist island, Chavez has sought to remain in the public eye through daily messages on his Twitter account showing he’s following events in Venezuela and phone calls to state television.

The self-declared socialist’s cancer has sparked a rally in Venezuelan bonds as investors bet on a higher likelihood his rival Henrique Capriles Radonski could take power and introduce more market friendly policies. Capriles has said that if he wins he’ll gradually eliminate policies implemented during Chavez’s 13-year rule such as currency controls and the nationalization of over a thousand businesses and assets.

Bond Yields

The yield on the benchmark 9.25 percent bonds maturing in 2027 has fallen to 10.44 percent from 13.41 percent at the start of the year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The price has surged from 73.00 cents on the dollar on Jan. 3 to 90.96 cents yesterday.

Chavez, who said in October he was cancer-free following four rounds of chemotherapy, won a 2006 election by 63 percent to 37 percent. Since then, polls show his popularity has waned to around 50 percent as the economy has experienced slow growth and high inflation.

Venezuela’s economy grew 4.2 percent in 2011 following a two-year recession. Consumer prices rose 25.6 percent in February, the highest of 88 economies tracked by Bloomberg.

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