Chavez’s Health Problems and the Future of Venezuela

Reports that Chavez underwent two surgeries in Cuba drew a mixed reaction in Venezuela. His supporters sound concerned and compassionate, while the radical opposition makes no attempts to disguise its heightened expectations. Over the past decades, Chavez has survived countless attempts on his life and stayed afloat despite a series of conspiracies, but may prove defenseless at the face of the killer known as cancer. Chavez’s health problems threaten to ruin Venezuela’s current regime and therefore present the opposition with unanticipated opportunities.

Some of Chavez’s foes seem to question his illness and suspect the situation around his health to be a plot masterminded by the Castro brothers and aimed at sustaining the Venezuelan leader’s popularity at the run-up to the 2012 elections. They are under an impression that at the key moment the story of a defiant leader fighting a battle against cancer is going to culminate in a miraculous recovery, reinforcing mass belief in his messianic capabilities.

In the meantime, Chavez’s constituency charges that their leader’s sudden health problems were created by the US and Israeli intelligence agencies. In a typical piece by Oswaldo Leal featured by, claims are made that enemy agents outplayed Chavez’s security and tested on him some kind of a murderous remotely acting technological novelty. Leal cites a score of politicians – Palestine’s Yasser Arafat, Argentine’s Néstor Carlos Kirchner, Chavez’s friend and potential successor, Guarico state governor Willian Lara – who started suffering from health problems exactly at the time their opponents needed most to do away with them. Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo’s cancer diagnosis also coincided in time with his attempts to gain at least some independence from Washington. Enduring rounds of chemotherapy, he lost the grip on the country and was eventually forced to pass the forefront role to a markedly pro-US vice president. In all of the above cases, however, circumstances could evoke suspicions but grounds for specific charges were absent.

The opposition media responded to the news about Chavez’s health problems in a chorus with the demand that he immediately return to Venezuela, least the country’s top post remains unattended. Compared to the past calls that Chavez should leave, the new campaign reads as an attempt to ouster him based on his alleged inability to act as president. It is not so important for the opposition who lands in the president’s chair as a result, the priority being to get Chavez out of the game. Rumors that Chavez’s physical condition is hopeless, that he has at most three months left, and that he is trying to run the country via Twitter are disseminated with increasing pushiness.

Upon returning to Caracas, Chavez was open about his diagnosis, treatment details, and prospects, and the candor pretty much undercut speculations that his chances for recovery were close to zero. Chavez issued several televised addresses, during which he praised Cuban doctors, expressed confidence in his future, and generally appeared to be in decent shape.

Chavez’s posture upon return to Venezuela certainly commands respect. He presided over a ministerial meeting, met the PSUV top management, and visited the military academy, where he referred to the cadets as defenders of socialism. Chavez ordered to convene a congress of Bolivarian circles, their mission being to generate an ambitious ideological program. The agenda is centered around the cultivation of the XXI century socialism and the Bolivarian process, the strengthening of the popular rule in Venezuela, and a launch of a broad international anti-imperialist campaign. The circles are supposed to cooperate with the PSUV and to form jointly with it the Polo Patriotico, an alliance for the upcoming presidential race.

Chavez’s latest round of military appointments is indicative of his plans. Gen. Elvis Sulbarán will head the 3rd infantry division based in Fuerte Tiuna, Caracas. Gen. Jesús Alberto Milano Mendoza will be the chief of the 21st brigade in San Cristóbal, Tachira State. A brigade of paratroopers will be led by Gen. Jesús Suárez Chourio. Overall, the top combat-ready forces are being passed under the command of officers who under various circumstanced demonstrated their loyalty to Chavez. Gen. Ornella Ferreira is appointed as the commander of the president’s security service whose officers Chavez knows by name and recently thanked for fidelity.

Judging by the measures, Chavez is receptive to his supporters’ warnings about the threat of a coup engineered by the right faction of the parliament and the radical opposition. The coup was supposed to materialize during Chavez’s stay at a hospital in Havana. The parliament granted Chavez a permit for a temporary leave he needs to carry on with the medical treatment in Cuba, but the conspirators hoped to present the temporary leave as permanent and – with vast media backing – to rally for the displacement of Chavez.

Chavez delegated part of his authority to vice president Elías Jaua and finance and planning minister Jorge Giordani at the ministerial meeting. He brushed off the opposition’s calls to step down, saying he would be the first to do so if his ability to perform dropped to an unacceptable low. According to the Venezuelan constitution, Chavez is entitled to 180 days off-duty for personal needs under emergency conditions, but that is more than he actually intends to take. A course of chemotherapy awaits him in Cuba, and Chavez says he expects to recover and to go on living for himself, his family, and his country.

In a recent interview to Venezolana de Television (VTV), Chavez admitted that he had to take the role of a national leader due to the intensity of the political struggle in Venezuela and to the country’s conflict with the US. When the anchor asked him about a possible adjustment of the approaches to governance and the feasibility of greater reliance to collective decision-making, Chavez said the changes were on the horizon. Still, the choice of a successor to Chavez is a hot theme in the ranks of the Venezuelan administration, the potential candidates being Chavez’s brother Adán, foreign minister Nicolás Maduro, energy minister and president of the state-run PDVS oil company Rafael Ramirez, vice president Elías Jaua, and several other figures.

With the presidential elections drawing closer, no contender seems to rival Chavez in terms of leadership capabilities, political will, or popularity. “Chavism” without Chavez evidently will not work. Finance minister Jorge Giordani says Chavez will be re-elected in 2012 and on and shows no signs of doubt that Venezuela’s incumbent leader will beat cancer. Reform in Venezuela continues, and there is plenty of work to be done – it is clearly too early for Chavez to retire…

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

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    1. I do often to this site for its highly informative commentary. However, I have also noticed a marked absence of any critical analysis of recent misguided geopolitical shifts in Russia’s foreign policy. For example, there has been next to nothing in all the sites run by pro Russia political experts- including this one- about how Russia’s new foreign policy-the so-called reset with the U.S came at the expense of Russia’s decision to throw the under the bus key former friends from the global south such as Gaddafi. It is in this context that it is not insignificant that despite coming to Moscow almost every year- if not more- since 2008- when Medvedev came Russia’s President and concomitant foreign policy shift in Russia marked by cooling relations between the global south and Russia and heightened attempt at new reset with the U.S- Chavez came to Moscow- if I am not mistaken- only once. Now he is ill, he sought medical care not in Moscow/Russia but in Cuba. In the mean time Russia’s media is now speculating that Chavez’s regime could be a prime candidate for U.S sponsored regime change as Russia’s political leadership continues repeating western imperialist mantra that Gaddafi must go.

    2. @John, I appreciate your interest in my blog. Thank you. I do not see any particularity in the Russian stance towards its geopolitical allies. Syria is still untouchable, Gaddafi safe and sane, peaceful skies over Iran and Venezuela. What else do we need? The international situation is extremely delicate and a single careless sparkle would ignite a global firestorm. Many powerful redbulls want it. So the Russian real politics consists in pronouncing a variety of words which surprise many with a single purpose: to exclude any possibility of war.
      Our relations with the allies are unharmed, do not worry… They communicate not only on air :)

    3. Nalliah Thayabharan

      Now I understand clearly the actions of current President of Venezuela Hugo Rafael Chavez and also now I know exactly why Iran needs a nuclear weapon to defend aginst Western imperialism. Since the 1950s Western imperialists have been in the business of regime change, assassinations and propping up client states to pillage the wealth and natural resources of nations.
      In 1953, UK and USA overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh of Iran. The coup was orchestrated by the intelligence apparatus of both countries after Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalized the oil industry that was controlled by foreign interests. They set up Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi (“King Shah” of Iran) as a puppet authoritarian ruler who relied heavily on American support.
      In 1961, in the Congo, the CIA in collaboration with Belgium plotted the overthrow and subsequent murder of Patrice Lumumba—the country’s first post colonial prime minister—and installed Joseph Mobutu who served USA for more than three decades until his own demise at the hands of US President Clinton and CIA backed proxies, Rwanda and Uganda. The war caused the death of six million Congolese.
      In 1966, Ghanaian independence leader Dr Kwame Nkrumah was deposed by the CIA using ambitious enemies from within Ghana while Dr Kwame Nkrumah was abroad in China on a peace mission attempting to mediate the Vietnam conflict.
      Another gross example of American meddling in the affairs of others was the September 11, 1973 ousting and assassination of the legitimate, elected government of President Salvador Allende of Chile. The coup d’état was organized by the Richard Nixon administration and Chilean military, ushering in the brutal dictator General Augusto Pinochet. These are only three examples out of many that can be named as examples of America’s pursuit of wicked foreign policy objectives.
      -Nalliah Thayabharan

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