Chavez to return to Cuba for cancer treatment

President Hugo Chavez plans to return to Cuba Tuesday to continue treatment for cancer, he said in a letter to the country's National Assembly.

It would be the first time Chavez, who won re-election last month, has returned to Cuba for treatment since July when he claimed he was cancer free after a debilitating battle with the disease.

In a letter to the National Assembly, Chavez said that despite the intense re-election campaign he had been zealously following a "complementary treatment plan" ordered by his doctors.

He said they recommended undergoing "a special treatment consisting of various sessions of hyperbaric oxygenation along with physiotherapy to continue to consolidate the strengthening health I have been experiencing."

Chavez, who has never disclosed the type or severity of the cancer he had, underwent surgery for a tumor in his pelvic region last year in Cuba followed by multiple rounds of chemotherapy after the cancer returned.

Since his re-election October 7, he has appeared in public only occasionally, mostly when he was leading a meeting of his cabinet at the presidential palace.

The 58-year-old, who has been in power since 1999 and gained international prominence as an anti-American firebrand, appeared weakened and subdued during the presidential campaign but he won a third term that extends to 2018.