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Ailing Hugo Chavez Returns to Venezuela

- Common Dreams staff

The ailing president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez was greeted warmly by his home country Monday after returning from Cuba where he's been receiving cancer treatment since last year.

Hugo Ch├ívez supporters outside the military hospital in Caracas where his treatment is continuing. (Photograph: Fernando Llano/AP) The Associated Press reports that Venezuelans "staged street celebrations to welcome him home" and that the president was now "Hugo Chávez supporters outside the military hospital in Caracas where his treatment is continuing. Photograph: Fernando Llano/APbeing treated at a military hospital in Caracas."

Chavez used his twitter account, which hadn't been used since November 1 of last year, to announce his return:

And AP adds:

Many in Cuba were taken by surprise by the news and wondered what it could mean about Chávez's health, details of which have been a closely guarded secret. [...]

Mirta Blanco, a 67-year-old retiree, said: "This could be good or it could be bad. I hope he's truly getting better, but I doubt it because what he has is irreversible. Maybe they sent him back to die. I think that's going to be his exit. It's huge news, but I think it's terrible."

There was no mention of his departure in morning newspapers, but Cuban state television described it as one of two "events loaded with emotion for Latin America" along with the re-election of the Ecuadorean president, Rafael Correa, on Sunday.

In a letter to Chávez read on state television and radio, Cuba's retired leader, Fidel Castro, said he was pleased that Chávez was able to return home.

"You learned much about life, Hugo, during those difficult days of suffering and sacrifice," Castro wrote. "Now that we will no longer have the privilege of receiving news of you every day, we will return to the kind of [written] correspondence we have used for years."