Roger Noriega, Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, might have been onto something this past summer. In July Noriega speculated that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may not be fully cured of cancer. Chavez claimed as much last October, but has since reversed course. He recently announced that in the near future he will go to Cuba to seek treatment for a lesion found in the same area as his original cancer.
This is bad timing for Chavez and his supporters, as the 2012 Venezuelan Presidential election is approximately seven months away. More dangerous for Chavez is that the Venezuelan opposition held its first ever primary this month and is beginning to coalesce around the winner: Henrique Capriles, a young, charismatic, and popular governor of the Miranda state. So breaking the news now may be a way of trying to avoid a medical discussion closer to the general presidential election. It also might explain the harsh anti-Capriles rhetoric that Chavez, his supporters (Chavistas), and Chavez’s state-run media cronies have been espousing since Capriles secured the opposition nomination.
As I noted in an earlier post, I believe those personal and abusive attacks are extreme, even by Chavez’s bombastic reputation. This might be a move by Chavistas to secure party continuity. Probably, their hope is that if they can dirty Capriles enough, maybe a designated successor (if Chavez is too ill to run or succumbs to his illness) could continue Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution.
None of us can be 100% sure about the true nature of Chavez’s medical condition. It is guarded more closely than any other secret by the Venezuelan government. The public and the world are not even sure what form of cancer Chavez is fighting or what stage it is at. He may be fine if this procedure is successful, but he may only have months to live. The Venezuelan people and the world should prepare for both scenarios. The Venezuelan state as we know it would most assuredly crumble without its central figure. However, at this point any speculation would be just that. Regardless of the true seriousness of Chavez’s medical situation, he and his supporters will manage it closely, but it is still quite significant the he has chosen to speak out now; and it is something the United States would do well to keep a close eye on.
– Max Rava
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