Venezuela's Chavez calls home to squash death rumors
By Anthony Boadle
CARACAS (Reuters) - A healthy sounding President Hugo Chavez called Venezuelan state television from Cuba on Monday to dispel rumors fanned by a nine-day silence that he had died undergoing cancer treatment at a hospital in Havana.
"It seems we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumors, because it is part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war," the 57-year-old socialist leader said in the telephone call.
Since leaving for Cuba on April 14 to undergo radiation treatment for an undisclosed cancer, Chavez had only addressed Venezuelans by short messages on Twitter to cheer supporters and hail the advances of his socialist "revolution."
His unusually long silence stirred speculation about his health and raised doubts about his political future as he campaigns for re-election in an October 7 vote.
Chavez said the cancer therapy was "hard" and he needed to rest, but that he was recovering and planned to return to Caracas on Thursday - although he would need another radiation session.
"Some people would like to see me leave here sprinting ... not yet, let me recover. I have to rest and look after my diet, the treatment and the hours I keep," Chavez said. "These rumors sometimes are damaging."
He said the rumors about his health were so strong they even had his mother worried and he had to call her.
Photos released by the Venezuelan government showed Chavez wearing a track suit and strolling in a garden in Havana with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, playing bowls with his brother, Adan, and kissing a crucifix as he hugged his daughter, Maria Gabriela. Continued...