Chavez set to shake off illness in Mercosur

Chavez set to shake off illness in Mercosur

CARACAS – Agence France-Presse
Chavez set to shake off illness in Mercosur

Hugo Chavez (C) greets supporters during an election rally in Caracas. REUTERS photo

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will return to the international stage at a meeting of Latin American states in Brasilia tomorrow, after a battle with cancer kept him largely out of the spotlight for months.

The incumbent in Venezuela’s Oct. 7 vote is slated to travel abroad for the first time since the beginning of the year. He recently made his first big-crowd appearances, where long speeches, singing and some dancing, eased concerns about the longtime leftist leader’s illness.

Chavez, the most visible face of Latin America’s activist left, was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011. But he declared this month, after a long series of treatments and two operations in 2011 and 2012, that he was “healed.” During his treatment, Chavez, 58, was absent from the campaign trail and important regional events, notably the April Summit of the Americas in Colombia.

His presence at Mercosur, a political and economic union of several Latin American nations, will “say, ‘I’m back. There’s no problem with my health,’ countering rumors about his illness,” said Luis Vicente Leon, the head of Venezuela’s leading pollsters Datanalisis.

Less than three months before the election, “Chavez must send concrete messages of his recuperation to erase any shadow of a doubt about his future,” he added. In power since 1999, Chavez continues to enjoy strong popularity among Venezuela’s poor, and poll results also suggest he may well beat his main opponent, 40-year-old former governor Henrique Capriles.