In 1st TV Remarks from Cuba, Chavez Says '1st Cycle' of Chemo Completed


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday he has finished his "first cycle" of chemotherapy in Cuba and will begin the second of various phases of treatment.

Chavez vowed to overcome his cancer, saying he is confident of winning re-election next year and staying in power for at least six more years. He spoke in a telephone call carried live on state television during a speech by his vice president, Elias Jaua.

"This first cycle has been completed successfully. And now, well, we're preparing for a second cycle," Chavez said. "There are various ones in this battle to finally defeat and eliminate any risk of the presence of malignant cells in this body, which is going to turn 57 years old."

They were the first televised remarks by Chavez, whose birthday is July 28, since he went to Cuba last Saturday to begin chemotherapy. His only public statements until Friday had been dozens of messages posted on his Twitter account.

Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor. He hasn't said what type of cancer he has been diagnosed with or specified where exactly it was located, saying only that it was in his pelvic region. He says chemotherapy is necessary to ensure cancer cells don't reappear.

Chavez likened it to a "bombardment," saying: "It's the bomb against the illness."

He said the first phase of treatment went well and he feels a "will to live that has sprung up inside me like a volcano."

"I'm in the best mood possible," Chavez said. "My mood is unbeatable."

He did not say how soon the second phase of chemotherapy could begin or how soon he might return to Venezuela.

Chavez said he was speaking from a meeting in Cuba with his foreign minister, energy minister, technology minister and directors of the state oil company. Hours later, state television showed video of Chavez at the meeting, appearing in an upbeat mood as he talked with aides.

In his phone call, Chavez praised the work of his Cabinet ministers, announced that Venezuela will give $5 million in famine relief to Somalia, and said he had approved a document with strategic goals for Venezuela's oil industry.

He touted OPEC's recent recognition of Venezuela as the country with the biggest proven crude oil reserves, ahead of Saudi Arabia.

"We have the first reserve in the world. We have 20 percent of the crude that there is in the world," Chavez said.

The leftist president, who has been in power since 1999, has indicated he intends to run for re-election in late 2012, and he was particularly adamant Friday.

"I will live, I promise you, and we will win. And we're headed for the great victory of 2012, and for the new term of government, 2013 to 2019," Chavez said.

A poll released Friday said Chavez's public approval rating remains at 50 percent and has not significantly varied since his cancer diagnosis. The Caracas polling firm Datanalisis surveyed 1,300 people earlier this month and the poll had a margin of error of about 2.5 percentage points.

Another survey in June by the polling firm had a similar result, with 52 percent expressing approval of Chavez.

Pollster Luis Vicente Leon said the president's popularity has hovered at similar levels the past two years, down from the 63 percent he had when he won easy re-election in 2006. The poll shows "the illness is not a variable," Leon said.

In his comments on television, Chavez expressed gratitude to his team of Cuban and Venezuelan doctors, and said he has gained back some of the weight that he lost after last month's operation.

"I have an ideal weight for me now: 86 kilos," or 190 pounds, Chavez said, adding that he used to weigh 100 kilos (220 pounds).

"I was too fat. I'm doing exercise, rehabilitation," he said, adding that he would soon take a walk.

He dismissed rumors about his health, saying: "The day before yesterday someone was writing, giving me up to four months to live. Well, let them have those evil wishes. I hope it doesn't come back at them."

In his typical fashion, Chavez broke into song during his call and chatted with some of those attending the televised gathering.