In a Havana cancer ward, as Hugo Chávez contemplates his final days, the truth about his medical condition — mental and physical — is coming out.
His face grotesquely bloated, Hugo Chávez has been fighting the biggest battle of his life: cancer. But the prognosis for Venezuela’s increasingly reclusive president remains a highly guarded state secret. Besides distorting his features, the chemotherapy he’s receiving has rendered him bald.
Several unconfirmed reports – all from anonymous sources — have claimed in recent months that Chávez’s cancer is very bad. Yet during his increasingly irregular and brief public appearances, the leftist 57-year-old leader has remained upbeat — seemingly defying the worst-case scenarios put forth about his health.
Now, Chávez’s former Venezuelan physician has dropped a bombshell: Chávez’s cancer is terminal and he has “no more than two years left.”
“President Chávez has a tumor in the pelvis called sarcoma,” said Dr. Salvador Navarrete, during a lengthy interview published Sunday in Mexican newspaper Milenio Semanal. He added: “The information I have from the family is that he has a sarcoma, an aggressive tumor with a poor prognosis and I’m pretty sure that’s the reality.”
Navarrete’s revelations offer the most intriguing information yet about Chávez’s health — and perhaps the most credible. So why is the prominent Venezuelan surgeon breaking a hallowed oath of doctor-patient confidentiality? It’s a question many Venezuelans are asking.
“Traitor or Good Citizen?” That was the title of an article published Monday at analitica.com by Gustavo Coronel — a Chávez opponent and former top Venezuelan executive in the South American country’s state oil company. Coronel’s conclusion regarding Navarrete’s “complex ethical situation”: He’s a good citizen, because knowing the truth about Chávez is vital to Venezuela’s future political health.
Interestingly, Navarrete described himself as a former Chávez supporter, the only “ideological” member of a Venezuelan team of physicians who started treating Chávez in 2002. Months ago, however, Chávez dismissed his circle of Venezuelan physicians, having grown increasingly suspicious of everybody around him, he said. “In Venezuela, President Chávez does not trust anyone, only Cubans,” he added. Navarrete, for his part, said he’s finished with militant leftist politics.
Citing information provided by Chávez’s family – but not naming specific family members – Navarrete said Chávez’s cancer is being treated with “aggressive chemotherapy.”
Asked if Chavez had prostrate cancer, he replied: “It’s not a tumor of the prostate. It is a tumor that is very close to the prostate and probably invading the bladder. Or it’s a tumor that originates in the bladder that is invading the pelvis. In any case, it’s a tumor that originates in the bottom of the pelvis, which is considered the anatomical region that is within the hips.”
Chavez is Bipolar
In revealing information he’d obtained from Chávez’s family members, Navarrete may not have been violating patient-physician confidentiality, Coronel noted. That surely wasn’t the case, on the other hand, in respect to intriguing details Navarrete revealed about Chávez’s precarious mental health in early 2002 — a period of seething political turmoil in Venezuela that was taking an emotional toll on Chávez.
Chávez at the time was “very distressed,” Navarrete said, and “under intense pressure and physical exhaustion.” Accordingly, a team of psychiatrists began treating him.
Chávez had reason to be anxious, for his grip on power was becoming increasingly tenuous. At the time, tens of thousands of anti-Chávez protesters – on the eve of a March coup against him — marched regularly in the streets, demonstrating against Chávez’s autocratic style and leftist agenda.
Yet it wasn’t political turmoil alone that was provoking stress-related problems in Chávez. It was much more serious: Chávez is a “manic-depressive,” Navarrete said. He explained that Chávez’s “unstable mental states turn from euphoria to sadness — states in which the personality becomes dissociated and has episodes of loosing contact with reality. It is a very common disease in today’s world, described as bipolar disorder. President Chávez oscillates between these poles, more prone to euphoria, to hyperactivity and mania.”
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