Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez (in red) on the campaign trail
Hailing his rebound from cancer as a "miracle" and firing up his supporters with spiritual rhetoric, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has hit the road to campaign for re-election in October.
The socialist leader began a series of campaign rallies under a rainstorm in the eastern city of Barcelona, seeking to show his health is fine and to capitalize on the emotional connection with Venezuela's poor that has underpinned his rule, reports Reuters.
"I'm in the street again, thank God, after everything that's happened in the last year. It's a miracle!" he roared to tens of thousands of supporters on Thursday night in the first of a series of planned appearances round the nation.
"The Bolivarian hurricane is back!" Chavez added to thunderous applause, referring to South American independence hero Simon Bolivar whose ideals - and persona - he has sought to adopt.
Though Chavez has said he is completely cured of cancer after three operations in Cuba over the last year to remove two malignant tumors in the pelvic area, doubts persist.
Doctors say it is impossible to be declared cancer-free until two years have passed with no recurrence.
And while the 57-year-old is clearly enjoying a surge of energy, he is nowhere near his famous hands-on style of street politics where he would dive into crowds, play sport in villages, and endlessly hug mothers and children.
At Thursday night's rally, Chavez rode on a truck, blowing kisses and placing his hand on heart, rather than walk through the crowds. He walked gingerly on stage, then visibly tired towards the end of an initially storming two-hour stump speech.
At one point, Chavez said he had been passed a note by aides telling him he had spoken for too long - and irritably said he would continue.