World Bulletin / News Desk
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez declared himself fully recovered from cancer on Monday, three months before an election in which he is seeking another six-year term.
"Free, free, totally free," he told reporters when asked if he was free of the disease that struck a year ago.
The 57-year-old socialist leader was first diagnosed with cancer in the pelvic region in mid-2011. He wrongly declared himself cured at the end of that year before having a recurrence of the disease in February.
But after repeated cycles of treatment in Cuba and Venezuela, Chavez is once again declaring himself fully fit at a crucial time when his health is the main wild card before the Oct. 7 presidential vote.
Perceptions of Chavez's ability to campaign for the election, and govern afterwards, are crucial among voters in what could be one of Venezuela's tightest elections of recent times.
At a four-hour news conference that offered more evidence of Chavez's increasing energy levels, he promised to begin campaigning on the streets with a series of caravans in provincial Venezuela from Thursday.
"Now is when I'm stepping into the action. Our offensive begins right now!" said an ebullient Chavez, who disappeared for long periods during treatment over the last year but has been back dominatingVenezuela's airwaves in recent weeks.
"Chavez is back in the street, the Bolivarian hurricane!" he added, referring to his spiritual idol and Venezuela's independence hero, Simon Bolivar.
Despite Chavez's optimism, doctors say it is impossible to be sure someone is completely cured until at least a couple of years have passed since the last recurrence of cancer.
The former soldier is leading most opinion polls by double digits.
Capriles, a 39-year-old, center-left former governor, has been criss-crossing Venezuela on a "house-by-house" tour in a show of youth and energy that the opposition has been using to contrast with the ailing Chavez, 57.
The president, though, who was famous for his whirlwind on-the-street campaigning of the past, appears to be recovering his energy levels just in time.
"Every day, I feel in better physical condition and I strongly believe ... it is not going to be a determining factor in this campaign," he told reporters. "I'm a veteran of 100 battles and I feel in great moral, spiritual and physical conditions for this fight that is starting."
Supporters of firebrand Shia cleric demand government of ‘technocrats’ untainted by corruption, sectarianism
'Two car bombs went off in town. The first one was at around midday near a bus station in the city centre,' police says
Order comes day after supporters of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone and temporarily occupied parliament building
Military claims its forces pre-empted planned attack on army base in Borno State
US presidential candidates were butt of Obama's jokes at White House Correspondents' Dinner
Leader of Crimean Tatars slams Russian 'aggression', urges expansion of Western sanctions
Rapid restoration of order is in interest of Iraqi people, foreign policy chief says
'No one has any business trading in ivory,' Kenyan president says
The banning of the Palestinian flag at the Eurovision contest has sparked outrage with the PLO demanding an apology from the contest organisers
A military plane has crashed in Sudan killing all crew on board
Russia's military exercises near the Baltics has made NATO nervous, forcing the deployment of 4,000 troops to the region
After threatening Sweden, Russia has warned Finland that it would risk a serious crisis if it joins the NATO circle
Hundreds of supporters of Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad's Green Zone on Saturday and entered the parliament building
With two soldiers killed in Ukraine in fresh fighting, tension has risen with NATO feeling the need for a Cold War-style hotlines with Moscow to avoid clashes
A satellite phone call to an Italian cargo ship resulted in the rescue of 26 refugees
A UN expert has called on the government of El Salvador to develop and implement a wide range of initiatives to protect the victims of modern forms of slavery