Hugo Chavez returns to Venezuela
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with his daughters, Maria Gabriela, left, and Rosa Virginia as he holds a Feb. 14, 2013 copy of Cuba's state newspaper at an unknown location in Havana, Cuba, Feb. 14, 2013. / AP/Venezuelan government
Updated 12:02 p.m. ET
President Hugo Chavez returned to Venezuela early Monday after more than two months of treatment in Cuba following cancer surgery, his government said, triggering street celebrations by supporters who welcomed him home while he remained out of sight at Caracas' military hospital.
Chavez's return was announced in a series of three messages on his Twitter account, the first of them reading: "We've arrived once again in our Venezuelan homeland. Thank you, my God!! Thank you, beloved nation!! We will continue our treatment here."
They were the first messages to appear on Chavez's Twitter account since Nov. 1.
"I'm clinging to Christ and trusting in my doctors and nurses," another tweet on Chavez's account said. "Onward toward victory always!! We will live and we will triumph!!"
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Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on television that Chavez arrived at 2:30 a.m. and was taken to the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas, where he will continue his treatment.
Former Cuban president Fidel Castro expressed in a letter this morning his "satisfaction" at Chavez being able to return home and praised Chavez's "amazing physical resistance and the total dedication of the doctors," reports CBS News' Portia Sieglebaum.
The letter addressed to "Dear Hugo" was published in part by the Caracas-based Telesur and the Cuban website Cubadebate.cu carried the missive in full.
Castro also praises those who stayed at Chavez' side following his fourth operation in Havana for a still unnamed cancer, singling out his "closest relatives, comrades in the revolutionary leadership" and the Venezuelan Armed Forces "re-armed and re-equipped by you."
"You learned much about life, Hugo, in these difficult days of suffering and sacrifice," writes Castro.
Chavez's announced return to Caracas came less than three days after the government released the first photos of the president in more than two months, showing images of him looking bloated and smiling alongside his daughters. The government didn't release any images of Chavez upon his arrival in Caracas, and unanswered questions remain about where he stands in a difficult and prolonged struggle with an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer.
Chavez was re-elected to a new six-year term in October, and his inauguration, originally scheduled for Jan. 10, was indefinitely postponed by lawmakers in a decision that the Supreme Court upheld despite complaints by the opposition. Some speculated that with Chavez back, he could finally be sworn in.
Government officials didn't address that possibility.
Maduro said Chavez has been in a "continuous battle" and that additional details will be provided about his condition later.
Hundreds of Chavez supporters celebrated his return in downtown Caracas, chanting his name and holding photos of the president in Bolivar Plaza. A man holding a megaphone boomed: "Our commander has returned!"
Supporters also celebrated outside the hospital, where a sign atop the building is adorned with a photo of Chavez. They held up a flag and a poster showing the president, and chanted: "We're all Chavez!"
Chavez's precise condition and the sort of cancer treatments he is undergoing remain a mystery, and speculation has grown recently that he may not be able to stay on as president.
Dr. Carlos Castro, scientific director of the Colombian League Against Cancer in Bogota, Colombia, said that given the government's accounts that Chavez is undergoing "complex" treatment, he thinks he likely will have to step down.
"Unfortunately, the cancer he has isn't going to go away, and he's returning to continue his battle. But I think he's conscious that he isn't going to win his fight against cancer, as much as he'd like to win it," Castro told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
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