Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez returned to Caracas today after nine days of treatment for cancer in Cuba that had led investors to speculate his health is worse than he’s letting on.
State-run Venezolana de Television broadcast images of Chavez waving and smiling as he came off a plane that it said arrived at 2:30 a.m. local time today at Caracas airport. Chavez can be seen laughing with Vice President Nicolas Maduro and other allies, discussing the books he read and interactions with Fidel Castro during his stay in Cuba.
“I’m very happy to be arriving here again,” he said, while discussing with his advisers the campaign for gubernatorial elections scheduled for Dec. 16. “I’m very excited.”
Chavez, a self-proclaimed socialist who has seized companies and imposed currency and price controls during his 14 years in office, has been in Cuba to help recover from an unspecified form of cancer and had not been seen in public for 21 days.
He didn’t say whether he’d attend a Mercosur summit in Brasilia today in what will be Venezuela’s first such meeting since South America’s largest oil producer was accepted into the trade group consisting of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Nor did he say whether he’d be present at a military procession in Caracas scheduled for today to mark 14 years since he first gained power in a 1998 election.
Venezuelan bonds surged yesterday the most in two years on speculation that Chavez is too sick to complete a third, six-year term after saying he was “totally free” of cancer while campaigning ahead of the Oct. 7 election.
The yield on Venezuela’s benchmark 9.25 percent securities due in 2027 rose 5 basis points, or 0.05 percentage point, to 9.22 percent at 8:41 p.m. in Caracas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Yields have plunged 1.66 percentage points since mid-November. The bond’s price fell 0.42 cents today to 100.18 cents on the dollar.