Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismisses death rumours

image captionPresident Chavez had not spoken in public since he arrived in Cuba on 14 April

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has spoken on state TV for the first time since he arrived in Cuba for more cancer treatment nine days ago.

Mr Chavez, 57, dismissed rumours that he had died undergoing radiotherapy for a second tumour in his pelvic region.

Speaking over the phone from Havana, he said rumours about his death were part of a psychological war against him.

He had surgery in February and has been shuttling back and forth between Caracas and Havana for treatment.

"It seems we will have to become accustomed to live with these rumours, because it is part of the laboratories of psychological war, of dirty war," he said.

'Hard treatment'

President Chavez said his treatment was progressing.

He said the treatment was "hard, and one had to go into it with much willpower and determination".

The president said he needed a lot of rest, but that he felt obliged to attend to his duties while undergoing treatment.

He said he was expecting Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro in Havana to discuss a reform to Venezuela's labour law.

President Chavez said he would return to Caracas on 26 April for three days before flying back to Cuba for more treatment.

The president's uncharacteristic silence since he left Venezuela for Cuba on 14 April had prompted a wave of messages on social media networks speculating about a turn for the worse in his health, or even his death.

Mr Chavez had sent around 30 tweets over the past nine days - far fewer than usual.

He had last spoken in public on 14 April when he announced from the balcony of the presidential palace in Caracas that he would probably not be attending the Summit of the Americas in neighbouring Colombia that weekend for health reasons.

Mr Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, has said that despite his health problems he is determined to win October's presidential election.

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