Smiling Chavez makes surprise return to Venezuela

Venezuelan president comes home after receiving cancer treatments in Cuba; video shows him meeting with Fidel Castro.

Chavez 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Chavez 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CARACAS - Venezuela's ever-unpredictable President Hugo Chavez made a surprise homecoming from Cuba on Monday and declared himself "fine" despite speculation his cancer may still require lengthy treatment.
"I'm happy ... I'm going to get some rest," a bubbly-sounding Chavez told state TV by telephone after touching down in the early hours of the morning.
Chavez's return changes the political dynamics once again in Venezuela, where politicians on all sides had been bracing for a protracted months-long absence of the man who has dominated the OPEC member nation for the last 12 years.
In a classic piece of Chavez theater, the president jetted in just in time for two days of celebrations of Venezuela's 200th anniversary of independence from Spain.
State media showed video footage of Chavez bidding farewell to Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana and then being greeted by ebullient ministers at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas.
"I'm fine. I feel well," Chavez said.
"I'm back at the epicenter of Bolivar," he added, in reference to his idol Simon Bolivar, a hero of Venezuela's and South America's fight for independence from Spanish rule.
Sounding ecstatic, Vice President Elias Jaua called on supporters to go to the Miraflores presidential palace in the afternoon to give Chavez, 56, a welcome reception.