Chavez Phones State TV to Quiet Rumors of Health Collapse

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez spoke to state television from Cuba on Monday after eight days away from the public eye, silencing rumors that his health took a turn for the worse.

Chávez said in a live phone call on state television that radiation therapy takes a physical toll and that he will need to recover.

He dismissed rumors of complications in his treatment.

"We'll have to get used to living in the coming days and weeks and months among those rumors, and well, when necessary come out to make them crumble," Chávez said.

He blamed "dirty war laboratories" and his opponents for the rumors.

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Chávez said once he's back in Venezuela, he plans to return to Cuba for one more round of radiation treatment.

"They're rough treatments," Chávez said. "And you have to rise up to the level with a lot of will, a lot of strength, a lot of faith."

He joked that some might like to see him out running a 100-meter race or playing baseball, "but hey, not right now. Let me recover."

"Ask anyone what radiation of four to five weeks is like. Do you all imagine? And also with the work that I constantly take on," he said.

Trading of bonds for the state oil company, PDVSA, surged over the rumors that Chávez's health may be failing, perhaps leading to a change in government, Bloomberg reports.

Monday's comments marked the first time Chávez had spoken to Venezuelan television since he left for Havana on April 14. Since then, he had communicated only through messages on his Twitter account and other written statements.

Chávez responded to criticism by opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who on Sunday chided the president for "governing by Twitter, approving laws without consulting them with anyone."

"I don't know why they're going to criticize that I'm sending messages by Twitter," Chávez said. "It's one of the ways that I have ... to communicate."

Chávez briefly referred to a controversy surrounding remarks by former Supreme Court Magistrate Eladio Aponte, who recently traveled to the U.S. and in a television interview accused government and military officials of manipulating court cases.

Asked about Aponte's accusations, Chávez noted that the judge was dismissed by the National Assembly on March 20 over accusations that he had ties to drug suspect Walid Makled.

"The person you've mentioned is a criminal. ... He was removed from his post," Chávez said

Aponte was accused of providing Makled, who is now jailed in Venezuela, with an official identification card. He has said he thought Makled was a reputable businessman..

In his television interview, Aponte denied receiving drug money but acknowledged that he had participated in manipulating cases at what he said was the request of government and military officials.

The ex-judge's charges have become fodder for political debate in Venezuela as opposition politicians call for an investigation into his claims.

Chávez, who is running for re-election in October, said that he was working with his foreign minister, his brother Adan and another aide, discussing issues including a new labor law that he expects to enact next month.

Earlier this month, Chávez decided not to attend the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, citing the advice of his doctors.

He began radiation treatment in Cuba in late March after undergoing an operation in February that removed a second tumor from his pelvic region. The first tumor was taken out last June, and he then underwent chemotherapy.

Chávez has kept secret some details of his illness, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors.

Venezuelan cancer surgeon Juan Correa, who is not involved in Chávez's treatment, said patients who have undergone several weeks of radiation therapy tend to have inflammation in organs next to the area where the radiation is being applied. He said the affected areas are sometimes burned by the radiation.

"Once the treatment ends, the burn or the inflammation disappears," Correa said in a telephone interview.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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