Arriving in Cuba’s capital Havana, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez received a warm welcome from his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.
Chavez has returned to Cuba for his third cancer operation. In July, tests had shown that he was cancer-free, but at the weekend he announced that some new malignant cells had been found.
In his absence, Chavez has named Vice President Nicolas Maduro to take over in case he becomes too ill. He urged supporters to vote for Maduro if a new election is held.
He told his Ministers: “I leave you my heart, my gratitude and I hope to be back soon”.
As he boarded the presidential aeroplane he told supporters “always towards life”
Chavez, who recently won re-election, is due to begin his new six-year term in office on January 10.