CARACAS - President Hugo Chavez returned home to Venezuela on Thursday after a first session of radiation treatment in Cuba that he hopes will cure his cancer and allow him to win a new six-year term in October.
The 57-year-old socialist leader has said he will be flying back and forth to Havana over the coming weeks as he undergoes therapy, removing himself from the political stage just as his election rival gears up his campaign.
Very little is known about Chavez's condition - he has had three cancer operations in less than a year - so doubts remain about the future of the man who has dominated politics in South America's biggest oil exporter for the last 13 years.
"It's a hard battle ... I'm good and will continue to be good. I've taken the treatment very well, thanks to God," he said during an hour-long pre-dawn speech broadcast on state TV from the Miraflores presidential palace.