Chavez returns to Venezuela

Updated 07 December 2012
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Chavez returns to Venezuela

CARACAS: Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez made a theatrical return home on Friday after medical treatment in Cuba, walking and joking in a first public appearance for three weeks that quashed rumors he may have been at death’s door.
“So, where’s the party?” an ebullient Chavez said after flying in before dawn to the surprise and delight of supporters.
“I’m happy and enthused to be back again,” he told beaming ministers after walking unaided down the steps from his plane at the international airport outside Caracas.
The 58-year-old socialist leader has had three cancer operations in Cuba since mid-2011 and returned to Havana ten days ago to receive “hyperbaric oxygenation” — a treatment normally used to alleviate bone decay from radiation therapy.
Speculation had been rife that he may have suffered a recurrence of the disease, and one local journalist had said he was confined to a wheelchair.
Earlier this year, Chavez declared himself “completely cured” and went on to win re-election comfortably in October.
Amid a barrage of rumors, officials had maintained that his latest visit to Cuba was just a scheduled follow-up to the radiation therapy he underwent in the first half of 2012.
Supporters celebrated the return of a man who has dominated the South American OPEC nation since he first won election in 1998. He wore a blue and white tracksuit and flew with relatives and aides including Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
“YEEESSSS!!!!,” tweeted Eva Golinger, an American-Venezuelan lawyer close to the Chavez government.
“Chavez is back and has shown up all the rumor-mongers, necrophiliacs, gossips and ill-thinkers ... Welcome comandante.”
Chavez’s return gives him a week to campaign for Venezuela’s Dec. 16 state elections, where his ruling Socialist Party is hoping to use the momentum of the presidential victory to win back some opposition-held governorships.
The opposition, however, is hoping that discontent with grassroots issues like crime, power-cuts and cronyism will enable it to at least hold the seven states it controls out of Venezuela’s 23.
Speculation over Chavez’s health is unlikely to end, given the scant details given by the government.
Doctors say hyperbaric oxygenation is a treatment normally given in different sessions over several months, meaning he could return to Cuba again soon.
They also say nobody can declare themselves cured of cancer until a couple of years have passed without recurrence.
The president had dearly wanted to attend a Mercosur summit in Brazil on Friday, to celebrate Venezuela joining the regional trade bloc this year, so his absence from that maintained a question mark over just how well he is.
News of Chavez’s trip to Cuba had prompted a Venezuelan bond rally given Wall Street and Western investors’ preference for a more business-friendly government in Caracas.
But in early trading on Friday, following news of his return, Venezuela’s global bonds fell 1.25 pct in price, according to returns tallied by the J.P. Morgan Emerging Markets Bond Index Plus (EMBI+).
Bonds had risen 6.2 percent so far this month to Thursday.
Opponents criticize Chavez for secrecy over his health and preferring Cuban doctors to Venezuelans.
He has chosen to be treated in Havana due to his friendship with Cuba’s past and present leaders Fidel and Raul Castro, plus the discretion he is guaranteed thanks to the Communist government’s strict controls on information.
Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper published photos showing Raul Castro bidding farewell to Chavez at Havana airport. Chavez said he had met Fidel Castro during his stay.


Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

Updated 26 min 49 sec ago
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Man killed in random knife attack at California steakhouse

  • The victim was dining with his family when the suspect came and stabbed him without warning
  • Police say suspect is a felon who had been convicted for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse since the 1990s

LOS ANGELES: A homeless man who randomly stabbed a patron in a crowded Southern California restaurant to death as he was holding his daughter was reported just a few hours earlier for disruptive behavior, but police ultimately determined he was not a threat, authorities said Saturday.
Jamal Jackson, 49, is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of 35-year-old Anthony Mele. He was being held in Ventura County jail on a $1.5 million bail. It was unclear if Jackson, who is also a convicted felon, had an attorney to speak on his behalf.
Mele and his wife were eating dinner with their 5-year-old daughter Wednesday at Aloha Steakhouse in the seaside city of Ventura. The girl was sitting on her father’s lap when prosecutors say Jackson walked up and stabbed Mele in the neck.
Prosecutor Richard Simon said customers and a restaurant employee followed Jackson out of the restaurant, even though he still had the knife. They kept track of him until Ventura police arrived and arrested him.
Mele was taken to a hospital and died Thursday after being taken off life support.
“It’s horrible,” Simon said. “You don’t think you’re going to be killed when you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant with your family and you didn’t do anything.”
Simon said the two men had not interacted before the attack.
“He was just sitting there with his daughter in his lap,” Simon said. “You’re not supposed to die that way.”
Mele’s loved ones started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for a funeral and to support his wife and daughter.
Mele’s Facebook page was filled with photos of his daughter and said he was a manager at an AT&T store.
Police confirmed that a bystander reported a man — who turned out to be Jackson — for disruptive behavior several hours before the stabbing.
According to the bystander, a man was yelling on the promenade not far from the beachside restaurant about three hours before the attack.
Patrol officers were out on other calls so command center staff monitored the man via a pier security camera system for more than 20 minutes before deciding he didn’t seem to be a threat, police said.
Police are asking anyone who spoke with Jackson during that time to contact investigators in the city 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Jackson also had half a dozen contacts with police in Ventura since the beginning of the year, including an arrest after a physical fight at a park, said Commander Tom Higgins.
He was also stopped on March 31 after a passer-by reported he was brandishing a knife. Police searched his bag and found a knife but there was no victim so no charge was filed, Higgins said.
Jackson has a lengthy rap sheet including charges in San Bernardino County, Higgins said, as well as convictions for burglary and unlawful sexual intercourse dating back to the 1990s.
The killing prompted the Ventura City Council to increase police patrols in the area and add staff members to monitor security cameras, among other measures.
“We are extremely disheartened and infuriated by this criminal attack,” Mayor Neal Andrews said in a statement. “We will not tolerate this in our community. Nothing is more important than the safety of our visitors, residents and businesses.”
If convicted, Jackson faces up to 55 years in prison.