* Says floods is reason he has to stay home
* Move had raised doubts about his recovery
* Had been due to visit Kirchner and Lula
(Updates with Chavez comments)
By Daniel Wallis
CARACAS, Dec 9 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
canceled a trip to Argentina and Brazil that would have been
his first official trip abroad since undergoing cancer surgery
in June, but said on Friday he was in good health and had been
The 57-year-old socialist leader said in an hour-long phone
call to state TV that he had to stay home to manage an
emergency response to torrential rains that hit Venezuela this
week and left thousands of people homeless.
"I am dedicated to this above everything else," he said
after chatting with families displaced by the floods.
"These children, the women, the good men who have suffered
for how many years. Poverty. Abandonment. Here we are. Everyday
there are bigger reasons to live and to continue fighting for
the people," the president said.
He told the host of the program he was in good health and
had been exercising. "I'm very sweaty. I was jogging," he said,
before breaking into a brief song.
The last-minute cancellation of his trip stoked renewed
speculation about his condition. Chavez says he is completely
cured following four sessions of chemotherapy, but has not been
seen in public since Tuesday.
He had been due to attend Saturday's inauguration of
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez for a second term, and
then on Sunday visit Brazil's former leader, Luiz Inacio Lula
da Silva, who was also recently diagnosed with cancer.
Chavez's trip would have been a politically useful show of
vigor before his re-election campaign next year.
Apart from trips to Cuba for medical treatment, the
normally globe-trotting Chavez has not been abroad since an
operation to remove a large tumor from his pelvis in June.
He has said chemotherapy sessions resulted in a
"miraculous" recovery, but rumors persist and the details of
his condition are a closely guarded secret. Cancer experts say
it is too soon for Chavez to declare himself fully cured.
Chavez was robust and garrulous during a three-hour news
conference on Tuesday to mark the 13th anniversary of the
former paratrooper's first election victory in South America's
largest oil exporting nation.
At various points since returning from surgery in Cuba, he
has dropped out of sight for a few days, only to return
chuckling at reports of his demise and explaining he has had to
lie low due to colds and other minor ailments.
(Additional reporting by Esteban Israel in Sao Paulo and Deisy
Buitrago in Caracas; editing by Anthony Boadle)