Chavez to make first official trip since surgery

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2011 8:49 PM
Chavez to make first official trip since surgery

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will travel to a summit in Uruguay on Tuesday in his first official foreign trip since undergoing cancer surgery in June and a further sign he is feeling stronger.

Speculation has remained rife about the condition of the 57-year-old socialist leader, who is aiming to win another six-year term at a presidential election next October.

Chavez denied rumors he was more seriously ill than has been publicly admitted after he canceled a trip to Argentina and Brazil earlier this month, blaming floods in Venezuela that left thousands homeless.

"I have to be off before 10p.m.," Chavez said during a lengthy televised cabinet meeting in Caracas on Monday night.

"They are having a Mercosur summit (in Montevideo), a very important one. I've now gone a year without attending these summits and since I feel well enough to go, I'm going to go."

Mercosur is a political and economic bloc that groups Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Chavez insists he is completely cured following four sessions of chemotherapy, although cancer experts say it is too soon to make such a call.

An overseas trip will be a politically useful show of vigor as his re-election campaign gets going in earnest.

Apart from visits to Cuba for medical treatment, the normally globe-trotting Chavez has not been abroad since a large tumor was removed from his pelvis six months ago.

(Reporting by Mario Naranjo; Writing by Daniel Wallis)