Hugo Chavez May Be Cancer-Free, But Venezuela's Future Still Lies In The Balance

Hugo Chavez

Photo: AP Photo/Kent Gilbert

Last June, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez surprised everyone when he announced he had traveled to Cuba to remove a cancerous, baseball-sized tumour from his pelvis. Once he returned to Venezuela, Chavez announced that his friend and mentor, Fidel Castro, had spoken to doctors and given him a clean bill of health, saying the cancer was no where in sight.Well yesterday, during a four hour press conference, history seemed to repeat itself, Chavez announcing that he is again “totally free” of cancer.

Other than this declaration, little more is known of Chavez’s health. Treating Chavez’s disease and his declining health like a state secret, the form of cancer, which reappeared in February and besieged Chavez for months, is still unknown.

Recently though, Chavez has started making more and more public appearances, in what appears to an attempt to quell the discussion and worrying surrounding his health and his future as leader of a country with the largest oil reserves in the world.

The upcoming presidential election on October 7th, where Chavez will by vying for his third six-year term, might have had something to do with it too.

His opponent in the election, Henrique Capriles, has been capitalising on Chavez’s declining condition in recent months, using his youth, energy, stability, and health to campaign door-to-door across the country. Some polls show Chavez in firm control, while some polls portray the race as closer.

Even if Capriles were to pull off an upset though, many think the opposition would have trouble getting into office. defence Minister Henry Rangel Silva has explicitly stated the military would not recognise a victory by the opposition and top officials under Chavez are already vying for the title as Chavez’s successor, according to Bloomberg. In addition, Chavez’s brother hinted at an armed struggle to keep the current government in power and considering the civilian militias Chavez created and armed, numbered in the tens of thousands, any change in power seems to likely be accompanied by violence.

Chavez’s health, presidential polls, and a possibly bloody transition of power — there’s a lot of uncertainity in Venezuela right now. However, the problems facing whomever takes office aren’t: increasing inflation, high unemployment, food and basic goods shortages, a failing power grid, and rising crime rates.

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