Chavez mixes soccer and statecraft

CARACAS, July 10 (Reuters): President Hugo Chavez alternated between soccer and affairs of state on Saturday in a return to Venezuela's airwaves after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba. The 56-year-old socialist leader had an operation in Havana last month to remove a cancerous tumor, prompting doubts about his health and fitness to stand for re-election next year in the OPEC nation of 29 million people.
The garrulous former soldier has sought to show he is fully in control since his return home on Monday, touring a military base and holding a televised cabinet meeting where he told his ministers they were all keeping their jobs. State TV showed Chavez watching the Copa America soccer match between Venezuela and Ecuador with several of his closest aides, while approving funds for government projects.
"Bravo Venezuela! Honor to Ecuador! Glory to Venezuela! Bravo Golden Boy! What pride!" he tweeted from his @chavezcandanga account after Venezuela won the game 1-0 thanks to a goal by midfielder Cesar Gonzalez. The victory lifted Venezuela to the top of Group B at the Copa America in only their third ever win at the competition.
Chavez has long dominated Venezuela's airwaves, often appearing several times a day to deliver lengthy, impromptu speeches. His Sunday TV show "Hello President" usually ran for several hours. He has looked pale since his surgery, but in better condition than many had expected. A separate video released on Friday showed his mother and other relatives visiting him at his Miraflores presidential palace.
Chavez's return to Venezuela on July 4, a day before big celebrations to mark the country's 200th anniversary of independence, electrified his supporters, calmed his inner circle and left political rivals struggling for a response. But doubts remain whether he can continue to govern effectively. One source close to Chavez's doctors told Reuters the president has colon cancer and faces chemotherapy treatment that could last several months. However, there has been no confirmation of that and senior government officials say the president is recovering well. Chavez has said he had surgery on June 10 for a pelvic abscess and another operation on June 20 to remove a cancerous tumor in an unspecified part of his body.