Hugo Chávez Makes Surprise Return to Venezuela

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 18 2013 12:30 PM

Hugo Chávez Makes Surprise Return to Venezuela, but Still No Word on His Precise Condition

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Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez gather in Caracas to celebrate the president's return

Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

Well, that was unexpected. Less than three days after the Venezuelan government released the first photos of the cancer-stricken President Hugo Chávez in more than two months, he returned to Venezuela early Monday morning. Chávez was in Cuba for cancer treatment, and the president who usually doesn’t shy away from a microphone—or his Twitter account—had been unusually silent while the details of his condition were treated as state secrets. But early Monday morning he announced on Twitter he had returned home. "We've arrived once again in our Venezuelan homeland. Thank you, my God!! Thank you, beloved nation!! We will continue our treatment here,” Chávez wrote on Twitter in what was his first post since Nov. 1. Vice President Nicolás Maduro said Chávez arrived at 2:30 a.m. and was immediately taken to a military hospital, reports the Associated Press.

Chávez’s return to Venezuela implies some improvement to his condition since at the very least he had to be well enough to be on a plane for several hours, notes Reuters. But while his return “appeared designed to staunch rising indignation by opposition leaders critical of the secrecy surrounding Chávez’s health and doubtful that he was running the day-to-day affairs of state,” as the Washington Post points out, Venezuelans are still in the dark about pretty much everything to do with his health. There were no images of his arrival in Venezuela and aides would only say his condition remains “complex.”

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Some found the whole thing rather suspicious. As Francisco Toro, a journalist normally critical of the Chávez regime, wrote in Caracas Chronicles:  “So Chávez snuck back into the country at 2:30 in the morning with no previous announcement, no cameras around and only a 3 a.m. tweet to announce the whole thing so … nothing at all strange about that, right!?”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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