Joy as Chavez flies back home
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise return from Cuba yesterday, more than two months after surgery for cancer.
The 58-year-old socialist leader's homecoming in the middle of the night implies some medical improvement - at least enough to handle a flight of several hours - and will inspire supporters' hopes he could return to active rule.
There was no new information on his state, nor images of his arrival, and aides said his condition remained "complex".
Chavez could simply be hoping to quieten political tensions in Venezuela and smooth a transition to Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, whom he has urged voters to back should he have to stand down and a new presidential election be held.
"We have arrived back in the Venezuelan fatherland. Thanks, my God! Thanks, my beloved people! Here we will continue the treatment," Chavez said via Twitter.
After a six-hour operation in Cuba on December 11, Chavez had not been seen or heard in public until photos were published of him on Friday.
There had been speculation Chavez was not well enough to travel. He was first diagnosed with cancer in mid-2011.
Chavez's arrival thrilled supporters in the nation of 29million people, where his common touch and welfare policies have made him an idol to many of the poor.
"It's fabulous news, the best thing possible," Chavez's cousin, Guillermo Frias, said from the president's rural birthplace in Barinas state.