Over the years, Chávez has been described as a narcissist by many, an observation reflecting his desire to be the center of attention. When he was in good health, he regularly gave rambling speeches on the radio and TV that went on for three or more hours. But the diagnosis of bipolar disorder gives physiological underpinnings to Chávez’s high-energy and rambling monologues and governance.
Regarding Chávez’s personal habits, Navarrete said Chávez pays a great deal of attention to his personal appearance, keeping himself “very, very clean,” and this includes careful “nail care for his hands and feet.” He noted: “He thought he was not going to get sick — ever.”
As for health-related vices, Navarrete said Chávez “drinks too much coffee, a lot, consuming countless cups of coffee a day.” He also smokes “under stress or pleasure, in private, never in public.”
He added: “He works late into the night every day, is a night owl, and makes his ministers work at the same rhythm. He rises at six-thirty or seven o’clock, sleeping an average of three or four hours a day, no more than that, and sleeps very little. He’s a strong man, although he’s now deformed by the effects of chemotherapy.”
A recent article in El Nuevo Herald (sister publication of The Miami Herald) described Chávez as being in grave condition when he was recently rushed to a military hospital. But Navarrete said Chávez underwent kidney dialysis treatment due to complications associated with his chemotherapy and its negative effect on his kidneys. The kidneys cleanse the body of toxins.
Navarrete’s remarks about Chávez’s prognosis echo those of Roger F. Noriega, assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush and a former ambassador to the Organization of the American States. In a column last July in The Miami Herald, he wrote: “Doctors treating Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez for cancer told him weeks ago that he has only a 50 percent chance of living another 18 months, according to sources close to his medical team in Cuba.”
It was a little over two-and-a-half months ago that Chávez, during a national television address, told stunned Venezuelans that he’d undergone two surgeries in Cuba to remove a pelvic abscess and cancerous tumor. Speculation has been rife since then about what a post-Chávez Venezuela will look like. Last month, early elections for next year were called for October as opposed to December.
To date, however, Chávez has no credible successor. But he does have his fanatic supporters, Chavistas, along with plenty of help from Cuba. Large numbers of Cuban intelligence agents now operate in Venezuela in support of Chávez’s regime.
Venezuela has provided Cuba with economic largess and regular shipments of oil; accordingly, Cuba can be counted on to do all it can to make sure Venezuela remains an ideological and economic ally.
Unfortunately, Chávez has so completely polarized his country that it will be difficult for Venezuelans to repair the damage he has done. He has taken three bad ideas from Venezuela’s past – statism, authoritarianism, and populism – and taken them to epic levels.
Anti-Americanism has become more prevalent than ever. Large swaths of Venezuela’s economy have been nationalized. And hundreds of thousands of middle-class Venezuelans – including many of the country’s best and brightest – have immigrated to the U.S. and overseas. They could have been part of the solution to Venezuela’s economic development, but Chávez viewed them as part of Venezuela’s problems.
The opposition will have much work to do to find a candidate to appeal to Venezuela’s poor majority; and even if an opposition candidate prevails, a new government will face an epic task to undo Chávez’s damage — soaring levels of corruption, crime, and dysfunctional governance. Venezuela’s state oil company, critical to government revenues, is a shadow of itself thanks to Chávez’s mismanagement.
Even without Chávez (or a Chávez clone) Venezuela will take years to recover from the damage Chávez has done with his leftist and anti-American agenda.
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