Hugo Chavez has not been seen in public since June 10, when he underwent surgery in Cuba. The Venezuelan government insists he was successfully treated for a pelvic abscess, but there are consistent rumors that the strongman has prostate cancer. The opposition is demanding answers, while the government says Chavez is ruling from Havana.
The country has not heard at all from Chavez except for one phone call to a state television program. His mother and daughter flew to Cuba to visit him, giving the impression that his illness is more severe than is being portrayed. The Vice Foreign Minister shot down rumors about his health, tweeting, “President Chavez is recovering well from his surgery. His enemies should stop dreaming and his friends should stop worrying.”
Thor Halvorssen, President of the Human Rights Foundation, told FrontPage that he is cautious about reports of Chavez’s impending death because it may reflect wishful thinking, and rumors about the demise of tyrants are common. However, “something of consequence is occurring when the Venezuelan president has vanished from the public eye after working 12 years to become the center of the universe in Venezuela complete with a cult of personality.”
Chavez may or may not be seriously ill, but his absence is having a negative political effect on the government. Time Magazine says, “[M]any Venezuelans are fretting about who’s in charge of their government,” and the Vice President is refusing to become the temporary leader as required by the constitution. The opposition is criticizing the government for not being forthcoming about his absence.
Halvorssen said that there is also a psychological affect on Chavez’s supporters.
“The minions of Chavez had, up until the beginning of this month, considered him a permanent fixture. He is mortal. They had never fully realized that, without him, the entire Chavez ‘revolution’ crumbles and their sinecures vanish,” he said.
He added, “There are no alternatives to him, no substitutes, no possible replacements. And why would there be if the intention was for Chavez to rule, as he has often said, until 2050?”
Alek Boyd, a Venezuelan activist in London and founder of VCrisis.com, told FrontPage that “none of the reports circulating are credible” about Chavez’s health, but wrote that his stay in Havana proves that “Venezuela, as of today, is effectively a Cuban colony.”
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