Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez revealed Sunday that a new tumour recently removed from his pelvic region was of the same type of cancer as a baseball-sized growth extracted from that part of his body about seven months ago.
In his first TV appearance in nine days, Chavez said the surgery and followup tests showed the tumour was "a recurrence of the initially diagnosed cancer."
He said "the tumour was totally extracted" and noted "the absence of lesions suggestive of cancer neither locally, neither in nearby organs, neither far away … neither metastasis, none of this thanks to God, to the diagnosis and rapid intervention."
The 57-year-old president spoke firmly in footage recorded Saturday in Havana while accompanied by government ministers and older brother Adan Chavez. The president said his recuperation has been "open, progressive and rapid" in the footage aired Sunday in Venezuela.
Chavez said "still it hasn't been six days because the operation ended on the night of last Sunday." He verified the date of the recording by displaying a Saturday copies of the Cuban and Venezuelan government newspapers.
He has said doctors found the growth in the same pelvic area where a malignant, baseball-sized tumor was extracted in June 2011. He flew to Cuba for treatment on Feb. 24, and his absence from the public spotlight since then has sparked speculation about his health.
"Everyone who has been operated on knows … the impact of an operation of various hours," Chavez said in the video. "And how, above all the first day when the body begins to awaken, the pains begin, the obstacles, after one goes step by step recovering the functioning of the body, like I am recovering it."
He added, "Since almost the second day, I began to walk. For this, I say thanks to God, to everybody."
Earlier, the first photographs of the Venezuelan leader to appear since the operation showed him smiling and chatting with Fidel Castro.
One of the photographs released by Cuban state media late Friday shows Chavez in a blue, white and black track suit walking in a carpeted room without any aid. He is smiling broadly.
Others show Chavez sitting across from Castro as the two men chat, apparently in a Havana hospital. The gray-bearded Castro is also wearing a track suit.
But it's not clear when the pictures were taken.
Earlier in a telephone call to Venezuelan state television, Chavez said doctors have put him on a special diet, and he's taking daily walks and spending time with close relatives.
Venezuelan Information Minister Andres Izarra said in a message posted on the Twitter social networking site that Chavez also met on Friday with Cuban President Raul Castro and received a telephone call from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who expressed satisfaction that Chavez is recuperating.
In October, Chavez will be seeking re-election for another six-year term.
His campaign rival, Henrique Capriles, had criticized Venezuelan authorities for releasing little specific information about the president's health.
Some are skeptical
Some Venezuelans were skeptical of the president's affirmation that his health is rapidly improving.
Ana Maria Fernandez, a 55-year-old street vendor who sells cigarettes, condoms and chewing gum outside a bar in gritty downtown Caracas, said she believes Chavez and his aides are exaggerating because they do not want Venezuelans to perceive him as weak.
"They always distort the truth," said Fernandez, who said she opposes Chavez's socialist ideals. "He's suffering, and that's why he's not appearing on television, demonstrating that he's recovering."
Fernandez said she doubted the photographs that appeared on Friday were new, as officials had claimed.
"He's been to Cuba so many times, those images could have been taken any time," she said.
Others confided that Chavez is going to bounce back soon.
"Our president is a strong man, he's overcome so many obstacles over the years, and I believe him when he says he's overcoming this one," said Leonardo Padron, a 47-year-old taxi driver.