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Published: Monday, 7/4/2011

Chavez returns to Venezuela after surgery for tumor


CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela from Cuba on Monday morning, stepping off a plane hours before dawn and saying he is feeling better as he recovers from surgery that removed a cancerous tumor.

State television showed video of Chavez leaving Havana and then arriving in Caracas about 2 a.m. local time (2:30 a.m. EDT; 00630 GMT).

“I’m fine. I’m happy,” he said. “A perfect landing.”

He hugged his vice president, Elias Jaua, and his elder brother, Adan, after stepping down the stairs from the plane.

State television showed the video of Chavez arriving shortly after 7 a.m. local time (8:30 a.m.; 1230 GMT). Then, in a telephone interview, he told state television he was having breakfast. “I’m devouring everything,” Chavez said.

Chavez said he spent “very difficult days” in Cuba but that his recovery is going well. “It’s the beginning of my return!”

President Raul Castro saw him off on the tarmac as he departed during the night from Havana. From the door of the airplane, Castro saluted, raised a fist, and then waved.

He arrived a day before the 200th anniversary of Venezuela’s declaration of independence from Spain.

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