Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on Thursday mocked rumours that he was suffering from cancer as wishful thinking by his squalid enemies.
Some local media have been saying this week that Chavez, 56, may be suffering from a cancer in the nasal cavity.
His failure to appear on Wednesday's first day of campaigning for the September 26 parliament elections fuelled that speculation, though it later transpired Chavez was holding a lengthy meeting with his mentor, Fidel Castro, in Cuba.
The squalid ones want to kill me, Chavez said, back in Caracas for a graduation ceremony of socialist medicine students. Now they're inventing that I have cancer, that I'm dying. That's what they want, he added, laughing.
Former soldier Chavez, who has inherited Castro's mantle as Latin America's leading critic of the United States, took power in 1999 and plans to run again for the presidency in 2012.
Though not in the same shape he was as a keen sportsman in his youth, Chavez still likes to demonstrate his physical vigour with marathon speeches or games of baseball.
(Reporting by Eyanir Chinea; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne)