Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chávez, announced on September 23 that he had completed his fourth and final course of chemotherapy. In a highly confident statement, he claimed he had beaten the cancer that has plagued him since June 2011. Chávez’s last phase of cancer treatment was performed in Cuba on September 17. His claims of a full recovery are a relief for many Venezuelan citizens who, prior to his departure, said prayers and sang along as a military band played the Venezuelan national anthem.
However important his recovery may be to his supporters in Venezuela, Cuba met the news with an even greater sigh of relief. Chávez’s role in providing subsidies for Cuba has been crucial in sustaining the nation since the Soviet Union cut its aid to the country in 1991. Losing Chávez to cancer would be a significant blow to the Cuban economy, and would force Raúl Castro to seek help elsewhere. Chávez, however, has given no doubt that he will be ready to resume his role as Venezuela’s leader, providing at least temporary respite for Havana. Moments after arriving home from Cuba, the 57 year-old President told crowds, “I feel like I’ve been born again”, and stated that he looked forward to consigning his cancer to history. He also expressed his intention to continue to guide Venezuela towards socialism and his expectation of victory at the presidential elections October 2012.