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Chavez returning home to Venezuela after surgery
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez leaves Cuba to return home 3 weeks after cancer surgery
By The Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) ' Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday that he had left Cuba and was flying home to Venezuela nearly three weeks after undergoing cancer surgery.

Chavez said in a message on his Twitter account that he was at Havana's airport.

"Right now we're taking off," one message said.

Another said Cuban President Raul Castro "came to see us off at the airport."

The president has said a Feb. 26 surgery in Cuba removed a tumor from the same location in the pelvic region where another tumor was removed in June. He has said he is recovering smoothly.

Chavez has said his cancer was first diagnosed during a visit to Cuba last June. An initial surgery in June removed a tumor the size of a baseball.

He underwent four rounds of chemotherapy following initial surgeries last year, but announced in February that he was returning to Cuba for surgery to have a lesion removed.

Chavez has described the most recent tumor as measuring about 2 centimeters (0.8 inches) across. He has declined to identify the precise location or type of cancer.

Chavez next plans to undergo radiation therapy treatment. It's unclear how soon that will begin.

The 57-year-old leader is running for re-election this year, seeking another six-year term in the Oct. 7 national elections. His rival, 39-year-old state governor Henrique Capriles, has criticized Chavez's handling of his cancer, saying that if he were president his health would "be a matter of public knowledge."

Chavez flew to Cuba for his most recent surgery on Feb. 24, and his absence from the public spotlight since then has sparked speculation about his health. Chavez, who has been in office since 1999, has vowed to recover and win re-election.

Chavez last appeared on Venezuelan television Monday night in video showing him walking with two of his daughters in a garden in Havana.

The president sought to keep up with government business while in Cuba. Last weekend, his Cabinet ministers were in Havana for a televised meeting where Chavez reviewed government projects ranging from subway expansion work to public housing complexes.

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