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Venezuela's Chavez responds to rumors of his death

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:02 AM EDT, Tue April 24, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The president is back on state TV after more than a week of silence
  • He is in Cuba, battling cancer
  • Chavez plans to return to Venezuela on Thursday, state media report

(CNN) -- Ending a more than week-long silence, Hugo Chavez took to the airwaves Monday to refute rumors of his death.

The Venezuelan president is battling cancer and is in Cuba to undergo treatment. His phone call was broadcast by state-run VTV.

"Rumors sometimes hurt. Look at my poor mother. ... Yesterday, I returned her call. I called my mother because she was so was nervous, and truthfully, you could feel it in her voice -- her voice broken," Chavez said.

The 57-year-old president has not specified the type of cancer he is fighting, and the government has released few specifics, fueling widespread speculation about his health and political future.

His comments on VTV were his first in more than a week, an unusually long period of silence for the outspoken socialist leader. He continued to post messages to his Twitter account during that period.

Chavez plans to be back in Venezuela on Thursday, VTV reported. Since the beginning of the year, the president has spent well over a month in Havana.

Earlier in April, Chavez spoke at a Mass in his home state of Barinas, tearing up at times as he discussed his struggle with illness.

"Christ ... give me life, because I still have things to do for the people and this country. Do not take me yet," he said.

Chavez described cancer as "a true threat that marks the end of the path for many people. The end of the physical path, that's the truth."

But he said he was recovering, adding that he had "much faith, much hope, much willpower to defeat this threat, as many people have, with the help of God and medical science."

Chavez has led Venezuela since 1999 and has pledged to run for re-election in October.

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