CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he is cancer-free, citing a series of medical exams in Cuba that showed no recurrence of the illness following two months of chemotherapy treatments.
The 57-year-old leader announced the test results on live television Thursday after returning from Cuba, saying thorough exams found no sign of any malignant cells in his body.
"I'm free of illness," Chavez said on state television, wearing military fatigues as he arrived in the southwestern town of La Fria.
Crowds of supporters cheered for Chavez as he rode in a caravan to the town of La Grita, where he visited a church that is home to a famed image of Christ, whom Chavez referred to as "the comandante of comandantes."
Chavez said he came to give thanks for his recovery.
"It's like a miracle that I'm standing here," he said, speaking to red-clad supporters who filled a square and waved excitedly to him.
"Thanks to God there is no presence of malignant cells in my body after four months of battle," Chavez said.
The crowd chanted: "Onward, commander!"
Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region. He has not revealed where the tumor was located nor the type of cancer with which he was diagnosed.
Chavez received four rounds of chemotherapy, both in Cuba and in Venezuela, between July and September. He said that from now on he expects to undergo regular medical checks and repeat the exams every four months.
The leftist president, who was first elected in 1998, is up for re-election in October 2012 and he vowed to win.
He said that in the coming months he will begin "a new cycle of more accelerated physical recuperation."
Dr. Javier Cebrian, chief of surgery at the University Hospital of Caracas, told The Associated Press that any cancer patient will need periodic evaluation, but "if the chemotherapy is effective, you don't have to do anything more with the patient." Cebrian has not been involved in treating Chavez.
Chavez has said cancer led him to drastically change his lifestyle, cutting back sharply on his late-night meetings with aides and the dozens of cups of coffee he used to drink every day.
He also said he has become more religious. "Every day, I'm more deeply Christian," Chavez said.
"From today on... a new phase of my life begins," Chavez said. "The new Chavez is starting out today."