The Invisible Hugo and the list of rumors

Now that Hugo Chavez has come out of the oncologic closet and publicly admitted he has cancer while his army insists he’s still in charge, rumors are flying fast and furious.

The guy who’s been hitting home runs so far is El Universal’s Nelson Bocaranda Sardi. Here’s a list,

  • Chavez is staying at Casa Protocolar #9, El Laguito, Havana, which was assigned to him 10 years ago
  • His urinary catheter was removed last week but he still has the stomach catheter
  • His spirits are very low, which shows on the video
  • Upon returning to Caracas, Chavez will be admitted to the Military Hospital.  A room with hospital equipment has also been prepared at the home of the Defense Minister, and at Isla Margarita (where the cancelled summit was to take place)
  • Fidel Castro has become Hugo Chavez’s spokesman. Castro spoke to Lula and Uruguayan president Pepe Mujica on Monday to cancel the scheduled summit.
  • Bocaranda stated on June 30 that Chavez was going to address the Venezuelan people on having to cancel his appearances at the summit and the bicentennial.  Chavez did exactly that on the evening of June 30.
  • Hugo Chavez’s mother and his brother Adan wanted Hugo to name Adan as vice-president “in order to continue the revolution”.  Hugo did not agree, and also chastised Adan when the latter said that the people should take to arms.

Chávez’ supporters ask: How can our superman be ill?
To his supporters, Hugo Chávez is far more than just a president.

To his supporters, Chávez is a larger than life figure, someone whose defiance of the US and preaching of social justice has transformed Venezuelan society. But his socialist revolution has been built around his popularity and personality, and there is no one on the horizon who could take his place, which could mean another radical political shift for Venezuela if his illness proves serious.

“For Chavistas it is very tough to accept that their supreme leader is no longer the strongman,” suggests Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue. “His human frailties have been exposed. For his avid followers there is no one else, only Chávez.”

The cult of personality lives on.

Update, After I prepared this post, I came across this article,
Simon Romero of the NYTimes reports that vice president Elías Jaua declared that Hugo Chavez

could legally keep governing Venezuela from his seclusion in Cuba for as long as six months if necessary…

Mr. Jaua emphasized that he fully expected Mr. Chávez to return to Venezuela within 180 days. In his remarks, made in an interview with a Colombian radio station, he made it clear that he and other top officials in Mr. Chávez’s government were relying on an interpretation of the Constitution that would allow the president to exercise his duties as head of state from abroad for a three month period, which could then be extended for another three months.

“We’re going to have a victory for the life of President Hugo Chávez,” said Mr. Jaua, who directed land expropriations before Mr. Chávez named him vice president.

This is a very interesting statement in many ways:
First of all, the medical condition must be extremely serious to impede travel right now. Venezuela has good doctors and medical facilities, and Chavez could also have doctors from anywhere in the world come to attend him in Venezuela.

The course of treatment must be very aggressive, very complicated, and very debilitating that Chavez would not be able to take a three-hour nonstop flight from Havana to Caracas inside of a six month period.
The internal power struggles going on right now which started during this currently three-week-long absence must be fierce enough that Chavez feels that he can not trust his closest staff and associates. Would he trust them with his life? Or would he rather stay in Cuba, where, once he survives whatever it is he’s being treated for (cancer, complications from surgery, metastasis), he can leave and return to Venezuela and return back to power?

Make no mistake, he is losing his stranglehold on the Venezuelan people the longer he stays away. The question is, what risk is he willing to take?

Linked by the Tatler. Thanks!


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