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AP / The Hindu / CARACAS (VENEZUELA), July 5, 2011.
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez kisses a crucifix after greeting supporters from a balcony of Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo: AP.
President Hugo Chavez received a hero’s welcome as he rallied thousands of supporters upon his return to Venezuela, vowing to beat cancer after undergoing surgery in Cuba.
Wearing the combat fatigues and red beret of his army days, Mr. Chavez projected strength as he spoke from the balcony of the presidential palace on Monday, waving to the crowd below and raising a fist.
The charismatic president, whose three-week absence spurred a flurry of rumours, delivered a signature performance - the booming voice, the socialist-inspired rhetoric as well as the visceral connection with his audience that inspired rock concert-like frenzy.
“We will also win this battle for life,” Mr. Chavez said. “We will live! We will be victorious!” Nonetheless, signs of Chavez’s fragile health peeked through the stagecraft.
At one point, the 56-year-old leader grimaced with apparent discomfort as he struggled to wave his country’s yellow, blue and red flag above his head. The flag ended up awkwardly draping over his scalp, until Chavez emerged with an embarrassed smile from the fabric.
About 30 minutes into the speech, one of his daughters stepped up to remind him of doctors’ orders that he not strain himself by speaking at his normal, marathon length.
“I shouldn’t be here for too long,” Mr. Chavez said. “This recovery process has to be carefully watched to the extreme.”
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