CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said on Thursday he would travel to Argentina this month on his first official trip abroad since cancer treatment and a further show of vigor prior to a re-election run.
“I want to go, I will go to Buenos Aires for the assumption of power,” Chavez said of the scheduled December 10 swearing-in of Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez for a second term.
Apart from trips to Cuba for medical treatment, the normally globe-trotting Chavez has not been abroad since surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his stomach in June.
Chavez, 57, says four rounds of chemotherapy since then have cleared his body and given him a “miraculous” and full recovery. Yet rumors persist that the disease has spread and doctors say no cancer patient can declare himself fully fit so quick.
The announcement of Chavez’s visit to Argentina adds to increasingly long public appearances and other carefully-choreographed events that supporters say show the socialist president is returning to his old self.
On Friday and Saturday, he hosts the first meeting of the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), delayed due to his treatment.
Chavez’s health is the biggest wild card in the South American OPEC member’s presidential election campaign.
A newly-united opposition movement believes it has the best chance of toppling him since Chavez came to power in 1999.
But analysts generally expect him to win, albeit narrowly, due to still widespread support among the poor, an economic upturn, and heavy state spending fueled by oil.
Chavez was speaking during a joint appearance with Kirchner, a friend and ally, in Caracas.
Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; editing by Anthony Boadle