Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez appears with close-shaved head

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has appeared with his head closely shaved, saying his hair has begun falling out because of chemotherapy.

It was his "new look," he joked in English at a televised meeting at the presidential palace.

Mr Chavez said his treatment was going well.

The Venezuelan leader, who underwent a first round of chemotherapy in July, has made it clear he plans to stand for re-election next year.

Speaking at a televised ceremony with his ministers, Mr Chavez said the effects of his cancer treatment were to be expected.

"Chemotherapy attacks... the whole body, and the fact that hair falls out is normal and shows the treatment is working," Mr Chavez said.

"My new look. How are you?" the president joked in English.

President Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June and returned last month to the island for treatment.

He has said tests shows he has no more malignant cells but he expects to have two more rounds of chemotherapy.

It has not been disclosed what type of cancer he has.

Mr Chavez, who turned 57 last week, appeared lively during Monday's ceremony to swear in new government ministers.

There has been speculation that the president, in office since 1999, will not be well enough to contest the presidential election in December 2012.

Addressing crowds on his birthday on 28 July, Mr Chavez declared that he was aiming for victory.

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