Chavez heads to Cuba saying he's beating cancer

By the Associated Press | September 17, 2011 | 6:50 PM EDT

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez takes his cap off during a welcoming ceremony for Bolivia's President Evo Morales at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday Sept. 17, 2011. Chavez said he is heading back to Cuba for a fourth round of chemotherapy and that Morales will accompany him to the Caribbean island Saturday. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he was heading back to Cuba on Saturday for a fourth phase of chemotherapy that he expects to be his last round of treatment.

Supporters greeted Chavez with songs and a prayer outside the presidential palace as he prepared to leave for Cuba along with Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was accompanying him to the island.

Chavez told the crowd that he is confident he is overcoming the illness.

"Chavez's cancer is now part of this history," he told supporters, standing at the doors of the presidential palace.

Wearing the red beret and fatigues from his years as an army paratroop commander, Chavez waved to the crowd before getting into a car to head to the airport.

As for his chemotherapy, Chavez said it would "most probably be the last" round of treatment.

"Then we turn the page, goodbye to the threat of cancer, and then on to life," Chavez said.

The 57-year-old leader referred to his 2012 re-election campaign, saying "the battle that lies ahead is hard."

Chavez said he expected to be back from Cuba within a week.

He underwent surgery in Cuba in June to remove a tumor from his pelvic region. Since then, he has undergone three rounds of chemotherapy treatments, two of those in Cuba.

He has said that the treatment aims to prevent any cancerous cells from reappearing and that tests have shown no signs of a recurrence.