Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez reappeared on television Monday after an eight-day silence, scoffing at rumours that his health took a turn for the worse and saying he plans to be back home Thursday after his latest round of cancer treatment in Cuba.
Chavez 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 rumours of complications in his treatment.
"We'll have to get used to living in the coming days and weeks and months among those rumours, and well, when necessary come out to make them crumble," Chavez said.
He blamed "dirty war laboratories" and his opponents for the rumours.
Chavez said once he's back in Venezuela, he plans to return to Cuba for one more round of radiation treatment.
"They're rough treatments," Chavez 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-metre 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.
They were Chavez's first remarks on 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.
Chavez 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 criticise that I'm sending messages by Twitter," Chavez said. "It's one of the ways that I have ... to communicate."
"It's so absurd to say that Chavez is governing by Twitter," he added.
Chavez briefly referred to a controversy surrounding remarks by former Supreme Court Magistrate Eladio Aponte, who recently travelled to the United States and in a television interview accused government and military officials of manipulating court cases.
Running for re-election
Asked about Aponte's accusations, Chavez noted that the judge was dismissed by the National Assembly last month over accusations that he had ties to a prominent drug suspect.
"The person you've mentioned is a criminal. ... He was removed from his post," Chavez said.
Chavez, 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 labour law that he expects to enact next month.
Earlier this month, Chavez 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 tumour from his pelvic region. The first tumour was taken out last June, and he then underwent chemotherapy.
Chavez has kept secret some details of his illness, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumours.
Venezuelan cancer surgeon Juan Correa, who is not involved in Chavez'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.