Bloomberg News

Chavez Says He’s ‘Free of Illness’ Following Cuba Exams

October 20, 2011

(Updates with Chavez comments from 10th paragraph.)

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said medical exams in Cuba showed he is no longer ill, four months after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, and that he plans to step up campaigning for next year’s election.

“The exams revealed that there is no sign of active malignant cells in this body,” Chavez, dressed in olive green military fatigues and black boots, said today upon arrival from Cuba in Tachira state. “I’m free of illness.”

The 57-year-old former paratrooper left the airport accompanied by his ministers and top military officers to pay homage to a Christ figure at a religious sanctuary in the town of La Grita. Since having the tumor removed, he has participated in ceremonies with Amazonian shamans, Catholic priests and followers of folkloric syncretic deities to help his recovery.

Chavez, who has ruled South America’s largest oil producer since 1999, has said that he’ll seek a third consecutive term in presidential elections next year, while declining to provide details on what form of cancer he has.

Yields on the government’s benchmark 9.25 percent bonds maturing in 2027 rose 18 basis points to 14.36 percent today at 1 p.m. in Caracas, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg. The price fell 0.85 cent on the dollar to 68.32 cents.

Spending Boom

Chavez allowed the government to sell a record $7.2 billion of bonds this year as he looks to finance state-run agriculture, housing and job creation programs that are pillars of his re- election campaign. Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said today that the government will boost spending 46 percent in the 2012 budget to 297.8 billion bolivars ($69.3 billion).

The self-professed socialist revolutionary will face a more unified opposition in the Oct. 7, 2012, elections as his adversaries prepare to select a single candidate at primaries in February.

Chavez saw his popularity rise 10 percentage points to 58.9 percent in September after announcing he had cancer in late June, according to Caracas-based polling firm Datanalisis.

“It will be easier for a donkey to walk through the eye of a needle than for the opposition to beat Chavez in the elections,” the president said today. “As much as some sectors of our society try to destabilize the country, they won’t be able to do it.”

Chavez left the airport in a black Toyota sports utility vehicle on his way to the sanctuary as he blew kisses to followers along the road accompanied by his bodyguards.

‘New Chavez’

During an hour-long Mass at one of Venezuela’s most venerated churches in La Grita, Chavez prayed before a statue of Christ as a choir sang in his honor. A crowd of hundreds of supporters gathered in the square outside.

Addressing the crowd, Chavez said today marks a “new stage” in his life.

“I wanted to come to La Grita, arriving from Cuba, to pay back a promise to Holy Christ,” Chavez said. “Just four months ago, I was in the operating rooms undergoing a seven-hour operation to remove a cancer. It’s like a miracle that four months later I’m standing here in front of you.”

He has had to cut down his public appearances and length of speeches since being operated on June 20 to remove what he said was a baseball-sized tumor from his pelvic region. He said that after undergoing four stages of chemotherapy, his treatment plan now will consist of rest, a good diet and medical checkups every four months.

Chavez said he has cut down his coffee intake to three cups a day from “four or five thermos flasks.”

“The new Chavez is here, but like Fidel told me, I shouldn’t abuse the situation,” Chavez said today, referring to former Cuban President Fidel Castro. “I didn’t know how to apply the brakes before in my life, which is one of the radical changes that I’m going to implement.”

--With assistance from Jose Orozco in Caracas. Editor: Patrick Harrington, Philip Sanders

To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Cancel in Caracas at dcancel@bloomberg.net; Jose Orozco in Caracas at jorozco8@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.


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