* Chavez has undergone three operations for cancer
* President has increased public appearances in recent days
(Adds context, edits)
By Deisy Buitrago
CARACAS, June 9 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
said on Saturday medical tests following his cancer treatment
show he is in good health, but provided few additional details
about an illness that has become an obsession in the OPEC
The former soldier's health is seen a key factor in his
re-election bid because a serious relapse of his cancer could
limit his ability to campaign ahead of the Oct. 7 vote and
potentially tip the balance toward opposition challenger
Chavez, who has undergone three operations for cancer in the
pelvic region, said he had taken exams including a CAT scan and
a magnetic resonance imaging scan as part of scheduled checks.
"This was a few hours ago. Everything turned out absolutely
fine," Chavez said in a chat with reporters at the presidential
palace in which he appeared healthy and in good spirits. "After
the operation and the radiotherapy, I feel very good."
He did not comment on whether he would need more treatment
or if he planned to return to Cuba, where he has received the
bulk of his medical treatment over the past year.
Chavez has steadily increased his public appearances after
weeks of keeping a low profile and communicating mostly via
Twitter or phone calls to state television as he recovered from
But this has done little to quell constant speculation about
his health among Venezuelans, m any of whom believe his
self-styled revolution would struggle to survive in its current
form without his charismatic leadership.
On Monday, he will officially register his candidacy amid a
rally of supporters that is likely to be his biggest since he
announced his cancer diagnosis almost a year ago.
Both sides will be closely watching him for signs of how
strongly he will be able to campaign for the upcoming vote.
"I have faith in God, in Christ the Lord, in science and in
my will to live so I can continue fighting for this country,"
Chavez said, admitting the radiotherapy had been "hard."
Most of the country's best-known pollsters show Chavez ahead
of Capriles, who on Sunday leads his own campaign rally. Polls
show two-thirds of Venezuelans believe Chavez will recover.
While upbeat and at times almost triumphant about defeating
the illness, Chavez has avoided repeating last year's claim he
is "cancer free." He made that assertion months before he had to
return to Cuba for a third operation in the same part of his
body as the first two.
His actual condition and capacity to carry on with his
typically torrid pace of campaigning are still shrouded in
mystery. News reports that he has only a few months to live
continue to surface, as they have periodically since he
announced his cancer last June.
One source close to Chavez's medical team told Reuters his
condition was "delicate" and he had started to experience strong
pain in one leg last month due to the illness' progression.
Reporters, including one prominent opposition journalist,
have said Chavez is taking powerful opiates to ease the pain of
what they said was cancer that had spread to his bones.
The cancer has given an extraordinary backdrop to the
election and is eclipsing all other major factors in the
campaign - including an unprecedented push by the opposition to
rally behind a single candidate.
Capriles, 39, has burnished his image of youthful vibrancy
with a house-to-house get-out-the-vote tour in efforts to
contrast himself with the convalescing Chavez.
(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Todd Eastham)