May 25, 2013
Chávez breaks silence with phone call
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ended a weeklong silence after his latest cancer treatment with a call to state television on Friday, singing a folk song and vowing to deepen his self-styled socialist "revolution."
The usually garrulous and attention-seeking Chávez's disappearances from public view have become longer and more frequent this year. That has fueled speculation his condition has worsened and may complicate a re-election bid in October.
Allies in the ruling Socialist Party, however, insist Chávez, 57, remains on top of government affairs, is recovering and is not mulling a succession. Chávez said he was working less than before his illness, but still about eight hours a day.
"Unfortunately, I can't carry on being the wild horse I was. I will rest and get well again," he said during the phone call, speaking in a firm voice.
"I didn't used to sleep, now I'm working as the law dictates - just eight hours a day, resting, following a diet. ... I ask God every day to let me finish the mission that the people have given me."
Chávez has been seen only twice in public since mid-April, presumably under strict doctor's orders in his presidential palace. He made a half-hour appearance last Friday when he returned from Cuba after completing radiotherapy sessions.
Despite rumors he was wheelchair-bound, Chávez walked unaided down the airplane stairs and then inspected a military guard of honor.
Even on Twitter, where he is usually prolific and has a following of nearly 3 million people, Chávez has been uncharacteristically quiet.
The official line is that he is recovering from tough treatment and will soon be launching his campaign for the Oct. 7 election in which he is being challenged by state governor Henrique Capriles.
Chávez wrongly claimed to be "completely cured" at the end of 2011, so many Venezuelans are skeptical about his condition, especially given the plethora of rumors and leaks from pro-opposition media citing medical sources.
With the details of his health a state secret, all that is officially known is that Chávez has had three operations. Two malignant tumors were removed from his pelvic area. The second was removed after what he called a recurrence of cancer this year.
The implications of a downturn in his health are enormous less than five months away from an election, where Chávez wants to extend his 13-year rule of the OPEC member.