Chavez returns to Venezuela in the dead of night

Venezulean President Hugo Chavez returned to his homeland after two months of being treated for cancer in Cuba.

One might expect the dictator to return in the bright sunshine of a Caracas afternoon, to be greeted by thousands of his syncophantic loyalists.

But instead, Chavez's plane touched down at 2:30 AM and was immediately whisked away to a military hospital.

Associated Press:

Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on television that Chavez at arrived at 2:30 a.m. and was taken to the Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas, where he will continue his treatment.

Chavez also thanked Fidel and Raul Castro, who have overseen his treatment in Cuba, and thanked his country's people "for so much love."

Chavez's return to Caracas came less than three days after the government released the first photos of the president in more than two months, showing images of him smiling alongside his daughters. The government didn't release any images of Chavez upon his arrival in Caracas.

"We're very happy," Maduro said. He said he had accompanied the president on the trip, along with Chavez's daughter Rosa, his brother Adan and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

The vice president said that Chavez has been in a "continuous battle" and that additional details will be provided about his condition later.

The government didn't offer an explanation as to why Chavez made his surprise return on Monday. Government officials have in recent weeks said that it wasn't clear when the president's medical team would allow him to return to Venezuela, though they had said they hoped it would be soon.

After the announcement of his return, state television played upbeat music from last year's presidential campaign, repeating the lyrics "Chavez, heart of the nation!"

Chavez loyalists have been holding down the fort during his battle with cancer. The dictator almost died las month when he caught a respiratory infection, and it is unclear whether he is out of the woods just yet.

The fact that he returned quietly and was immediately hospitalized at a military facility would seem to suggest that all is not well with Uncle Hugo.

Chavez we re-elected last October but his inauguration has been postponed due to his illness.