Chavez Heads to Cuba Saying Cancer is History
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez headed back to Cuba on Saturday night for a fourth phase of chemotherapy that he expects to be his last round of treatment for cancer.
Supporters saw off Chavez with songs and a prayer outside the presidential palace before he left for the airport along with Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was accompanying him to the island.
Chavez told the crowd that he is confident he is overcoming the illness.
"I'm sure that this week we will close the cycle of chemotherapy and we will be turning the page," he told supporters, standing at the doors of the presidential palace.
"Chavez's cancer is now part of this history," he added, likening it to the short-lived coup he survived in 2002.
Chavez waved to the crowd wearing the red beret and fatigues from his years as an army paratroop commander.
He said he expected to undergo medical tests in Havana on Saturday night and then resume chemotherapy Sunday.
Chavez said he and Morales both planned to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro.
Later, a military band played Venezuela's national anthem at the airport as Chavez and Morales prepared to board their flight to Havana. Chavez said he would return to Venezuela before next weekend.
Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June to remove a tumor from his pelvic region. Since then, he has undergone three rounds of chemotherapy treatments, two of those in Cuba.
He has lost weight, and since the beginning of August he has appeared with his head shaved after his hair began to fall out due to chemotherapy.
The 57-year-old leader has said that the treatment aims to prevent any cancerous cells from reappearing and that tests have shown no signs of a recurrence.
He said previously that he expects his entire treatment regime to be finished around the end of October.
Once the treatments are finished, Chavez said, it will be "goodbye to the threat of cancer, and then on to life."
"I will come out strengthened," he said.
Chavez, who has been in office since 1999, is up for re-election in October 2012. Referring to his political campaign, he said he will be ready for "the battle ahead, which is hard."
By AP, 18/09/2011