May 23, 2013
Venezuela's Chávez stages cancer-comeback rally
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez led his biggest rally since he was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, seeking to stage a show of strength on Monday as he heads into a re-election campaign to extend his 13 years of socialist rule.
Chávez stood on top of a truck as it drove through huge crowds of supporters who cheered and threw roses and confetti as he made a dramatic re-entry into the public eye after months of keeping a low profile during cancer treatment.
The rally in Caracas was all the more important after his opposition rival, Henrique Capriles, put on a show of youthful vigor on Sunday by leading a 10 km (6.2 mile) march with hundreds of thousands of supporters to register his candidacy.
"I give this to you with a promise to fight, to battle, and of course to win," the 57-year-old Chávez said as he handed electoral officials his plan for government.
He had entered the building appearing to walk with some difficulty, hand-in-hand with two of his daughters.
That prompted a scathing response from Capriles on Twitter: "This candidate isn't walking, he is out of gasoline! ... A better future of progress is coming!"
Outside, several giant inflatable Chávez dolls waved their arms above the crowd as the president's fans danced to music pounding from speakers. Hundreds of buses that ferried his followers to Caracas stood parked in side streets.
Any turn for the worse in Chávez's health could mean the end for his movement. That would be a blow to global leftist leaders who see him as an inspiration, but a boon to investors seeking free market reforms in Venezuela and oil companies keen on tapping the world's biggest crude reserves.