Chavez plans "thanksgiving" after Cuba cancer tests

CARACAS Thu Oct 20, 2011 8:43pm IST

Cuba's President Raul Castro (L) and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez meet at Havana's Jose Marti airport in this handout picture taken October 16, 2011. REUTERS/Revolution Studios/Cubadebate/Handout

Cuba's President Raul Castro (L) and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez meet at Havana's Jose Marti airport in this handout picture taken October 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Revolution Studios/Cubadebate/Handout

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's convalescing President Hugo Chavez said he would be home on Thursday for a thanksgiving ceremony at a religious shrine after checks in Cuba following cancer treatment.

"Tomorrow we will be in Venezuela! We will go and fulfill our vow to the Christ of La Grita! We will overcome!" Chavez said via Twitter, referring to a Catholic religious shrine in the west of the South American nation.

The 57-year-old socialist leader went to Cuba on the weekend, saying "final" checks would declare him cancer-free.

But doctors say it is impossible to determine any patient's complete recovery until at least two years after treatment.

Chavez's tweeted message, which he then repeated in a brief phone call to state TV, implied he felt the checks had gone well.

In events that have stunned Venezuelans, unsettled politics a year before a presidential election, and sparked a torrent of rumors and speculation, Chavez had a malignant tumor removed in June and then underwent four cycles of chemotherapy.

Chavez ally and Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said ministers would wait for him on Thursday in Tachira state.

"We are going on a journey of faith and of hope, to give thanks and pay promises to the Christ of La Grita," Ramirez said, adding that Chavez would make "important announcements" to the nation on his homecoming.

Chavez hopes to run for re-election in the OPEC member nation in October 2012.

"I am very happy and very optimistic," Chavez said in the phone call to state TV. "We will live, we will conquer!"

So far, he has benefited from a sympathy bounce in polls, taking him to an approval rating near 60 percent. But analysts say that may fall if he is seen as not well enough to run a re-election campaign or rule for another six years.

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