Juan Forero addresses the question, following Chávez’s announcement that he’s having surgery in Cuba, and a subsequent statement that,
“If it turns out to be malignant, well, that opens a new phase of radiation therapy that would be more focused,” Chavez said. “That will stop me, stop me, of course.”
This time, his opponent is a popular governor, Henrique Capriles, who has shown himself to be adept on the campaign trail. At just 39, Capriles presents an image of youth and vigor that stands in increasing contrast to the picture of a president hobbled by serious illness.
On Feb. 12, more than 3 million voters turned out to overwhelmingly select Capriles as the opposition’s candidate for the October elections from a field of anti-Chavez foes. His emergence has flustered Chavez, who has referred to Capriles as “a low-life pig” and “the loser” and depicted him as a pawn of the United States.
“The contrast between the two couldn’t be more dramatic: a young, telegenic Capriles against Chavez, who looks worse all the time,” Arnson said. “This can only help the opposition on the media front.”
The president’s condition also highlights the inherent weakness of a government in which Chavez’s power is unrestricted and uncontested, said Demetrio Boersner, a political analyst in Caracas. “All the powers are concentrated in his hands, so if he’s out, then the whole system starts to weaken,” Boersner said.
Chavez is scheduled to announce the date of the surgery today, as he heads for Cuba… which is the only country in the hemisphere (and possibly the world) that can guarantee secrecy, it being an island-prison.