Ailing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez capped a busy Thursday full of pronouncements and speeches by signing a decree that creates a new state authority to oversee prices.
The action aims to attack one of the biggest challenges facing the oil-exporting country: annual inflation hovering near 24 percent that is the highest in Latin America.
Chavez also rallied supporters and expressed confidence that he will survive cancer, a day after saying he expects to eventually undergo chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
"I'm facing one of the biggest battles of my life," Chavez told the crowd in a downtown Caracas plaza. "With the grace of God we will also win it."
The newspaper Estado de S. Paulo in Brazil reported on its website Thursday night that Chavez would seek treatment at Hospital Sirio Libanes, a facility in Sao Paulo known as one of the best hospitals for cancer treatment in Latin America. The newspaper did not cite its sources for the report, and there was no immediate comment from the Venezuelan government.
Presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Fernando Lugo of Paraguay have both been treated for cancers at Sirio Libanes. Lugo underwent treatment last year and Rousseff in 2009 when she was not yet Brazil's president.
Rousseff last week offered Chavez the help of Brazilian doctors for his cancer treatment, telling him in a phone conversation that Brazilian specialists could be sent to Venezuela or he could come to Brazil.
Chavez did not give details about his cancer treatment in a televised Cabinet meeting Thursday, instead focusing on domestic affairs.
He signed a decree to create a new "national system of costs and prices" that he said will prevent businesses from overcharging Venezuelans and ensure "fair prices."
"Speculation should end," Chavez said.
Chavez enacted the decree, among others, by using special legislative powers granted by his congressional allies in December that allow him to enact laws on his own for 18 months.
The government already maintains price controls on many basic food products, ranging from milk to sugar to beef. It wasn't immediately clear what additional steps the new agency will take.
During his outdoor appearance Thursday, Chavez rallied hundreds of supporters in a plaza where he sang along with live music and pledged an "eternal revolution" despite his recent cancer diagnosis.
The 56-year-old leader underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region.
Despite his health problems, Chavez projected the image of a chief executive control Thursday by speaking for 109 minutes during the Cabinet meeting.
Chavez touched on a range of subjects, including vowing to accelerate his government's socialist-inspired Bolivarian Revolution.
"Socialism or nothing," Chavez told his ministers while saying his government is moving ahead with "revolutionary laws."
Chavez also condemned NATO airstrikes in Libya and expressed support for the North Africa nation's embattled leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
"Gadhafi sent a message," Chavez said, without specifying what the Libyan leader told him or when the message was sent. "Gadhafi is there resisting. How long will this outrage go on?"
"It's a heroic and free nation, and its government responds to Libya, not to the interests of the empire, not the old ones nor the new empires," Chavez said, referring to the United States and European countries that have participated in the airstrikes.
"Long live Libya and its independence! ... Courage, Gadhafi. Courage, Libya," Chavez said. "They're challenging the murderous bombs of NATO."
He also expressed support for the Syrian government, saying "imperialism" is behind the four-month revolt in that country.
Chavez said another of his allies, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had called him. "I haven't been able to talk with him," Chavez said, adding that he hoped to soon.
Among the other decrees signed by Chavez was the expropriation of a rice processing plant in central Guarico state, which he said had been violating labor laws and other requirements.
The leftist leader discussed the government's farming, housing and electricity projects and dived into Venezuelan history while reading the country's 1811 declaration of independence.
Chavez drank a single cup of coffee, saying he has cut back drastically from the dozens of cups he used to consume in a single day.
"I've freed myself from an addiction," Chavez told his Cabinet ministers.
Chavez paused during the meeting, at 3 p.m., and said it was time for him to take a pill. He held up half a pill in his fingers without saying what it was and swallowed it by downing a glass of water brought to him by a woman wearing a white medical robe. "Iron discipline, I take the pill," Chavez said.
In the past week, Chavez's Twitter account has been active with several messages posted each day, and he has appeared on television addressing troops and attending Mass.
He and government officials have not said what type of cancer is involved. Chavez has said a tumor the size of a baseball was removed in last month's surgery.
Chavez has kept his speeches shorter than usual, saying he is under strict doctors' orders.
But on Thursday, he spoke twice and for a total of more than two hours. During his speech to supporters, Chavez wore fatigues and the red beret from his days as an army paratroop commander.
Chavez raised the flag over Plaza Bolivar in downtown Caracas while the national anthem was played. Supporters clapped and cheered.
"I wanted to come here to accompany you physically because these days I've been accompanying you ... with my spirit, with my soul rather than my body, for the reasons you all know," he said.
Chavez, who is up for re-election in 2012, said he is confident "the Bolivarian Revolution, the socialist revolution ... will never again leave here."
After his speech, he grabbed a microphone and joined a Venezuelan joropo band in singing songs from the rural plains where he grew up.
"Long live the plains!" Chavez said with a smile.
An announcer at the plaza told the crowd: "Long live El Comandante Hugo Chavez!"
The crowd responded with chants of: "Onward commander!"
Chavez also shouted: "I will live, we will live, for the homeland!"
He was scheduled to meet with Peru's president-elect, Ollanta Humala, on Friday, according to Humala's political party. The visit had been delayed while Chavez was recovering in Cuba.
Associated Press writers Bradley Brooks in Sao Paulo and Patricia Rondon Espin in Caracas contributed to this report.
Ian James on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ianjamesap