Venezuela's Chavez reappears, leads cabinet meeting

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 11, 2012 3:48 PM
Venezuela's Chavez reappears, leads cabinet meeting

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reappeared on Tuesday in a live television broadcast, the first time he has been seen in public view since returning from cancer treatment in Cuba almost two weeks ago.

Chavez spoke in a strong voice and did not appear tired during the broadcast.

Chavez's uncharacteristic disappearances have become longer and more frequent this year. They have fueled speculation his condition has worsened and may complicate a re-election bid in October.

Chavez cracked jokes with government ministers during Tuesday's broadcast and reiterated his plans to register his candidacy for an October 7 election next month as set out by the country's electoral commission.

"The defeat that we're going to deal to the opposition will be unprecedented," Chavez said on the broadcast.

It was only Chavez's third appearance in public since mid-April. He called state television twice in recent days but it was his first public speech since he returned from Cuba after completing radiotherapy sessions on May 11.

The official line in recent weeks has been that Chavez was out of the public limelight to ensure he gets sufficient rest, but is on the road to recovery and will soon begin his re-election campaign ahead of the October 7 vote.

His appearance on Tuesday could help dampen speculation, stoked by leaks from pro-opposition journalists, that his condition may be grave.

The implications of that would be enormous for the South American OPEC member nation that Chavez has dominated for the last 13 years without grooming a successor.

(Reporting by Mario Naranjo and Helen Popper)