There have been many articles on the medical condition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. However, beyond reporting that he was hospitalized soon after his arrival in Cuba on June 8 (allegedly for surgical treatment of a pelvic abscess), is still there, and has been uncharacteristically uncommunicative, they have been based mostly on rumors and the speculation they produce. Miami, Florida, has a significant Venezuelan expat community and there have been lively discussions there about Chávez’s condition and what his death would mean. Although they have access to more information than most folks in Venezuela, they seem to be up in the air as well. Chávez may have died in Cuba on the morning of June 25. According to a tweet from WikiLeaks Argentina, “BREAKING NEWS! The president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez died in Cuba this morning. 06/25/2011 08:43AM.” The WikiLeaks report has been received with great skepticism, was discounted in a Business Insider article, and has not generally been picked up by the media, probably for good reasons. There was an article on June 27 (in Spanish) in Periodista Latino — apparently published in Spain principally for Latin American expats and said to be based on reports by an anonymous reporter in Havana — claiming that Chávez has been in a coma for five days due to septicemia and that he is in one of Fidel Castro’s houses under tight security lest there be leaks of information such as might happen were he in the hospital. It is said that European physicians and lots of medical equipment are there to care for him. True? It makes at least as much sense as other claims. The fact is that nobody in a position to make credible, factual, and substantive statements is willing or otherwise able to do so.Nice Deb has a roundup of the rumors. Big one comes, allegedly, from "US intelligence sources":
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is currently at a hospital in Havana, is undergoing a “critical clinical condition,” several U.S. intelligence sources said on Friday.But take them all with a grain of salt. From Ace:
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they could not confirm reports that the Venezuelan president is being treated for cancer of the prostate, which is the rumor that is currently being heard with increasing frequency in Venezuela’s high places.
But the health of the Venezuelan president, who underwent surgery two weeks ago in Havana, “is in a critical state, not grave, but critical, complicated,” said one of the sources, whose identity can not be revealed due to the sensitive location where he is.
I know for a fact there is an effort to punk the media. Maybe the blogosphere too.Fausta also warns:
Be on the lookout for tantalizing tips. Do not take the first level of verification as authoritative, because they're putting enough thought into this at least pass the first level.
Don’t believe it.It would not surprise me if this was faked. It is not unusual for totalitarian rulers, including Roman emperors, to fake their deaths to see who comes out of the woodwork trying to take their place. Those who come out are then offed when the ruler returns.
1. There is absolutely no evidence to support this rumor.
2. Any of you who believe the rumor are being punked.
Mary O'Grady pens an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal hoping for Chavez to get well. it's based on "Better the Devil You Know" argument that seems to dominate US foreign policy circles. It's an asinine argument. Albeit one with which blogger Daniel Duquenal, who has long covered Chavez' thugocracy in Venezuela, agrees.
Based on a Spanish-language post from Gustavo, Daniel theorizes that Chavez is suffering from advanced prostate cancer:
This already would explain several things: why Chavez never remarried; why he occasionally seems to get all bloated; why his ample clothing when he does an extended cadena as it could hide adult diapers better; why the mystery around the whole thing as prostate surgery for a macho man is tantamount to recognize that he is not that macho anymore.Meanwhile, giving credence to the rumor that Hugo is on his deathbed, Chavez' brother is issuing threats.
Since the post of Gustavo is in Spanish, follows my interpretation of his text in English.
Apparently the "knee" problem was a way to hide the prostate surgery which today can be dealt well enough in a couple of weeks. But if we are to believe Gustavo the post biopsy was not encouraging and they decided to do some advanced body scans which in Venezuela can only be done in a couple of private clinics. Not only Chavez entourage would not trust the discretion of private clinics but it would have been also an admission that the "socialist" care was not as performing as the "capitalist" care since the regime had not been able to match the equipment of the private sector for "el pueblo". Thus the trip to Cuba. One caveat here: where would have Chavez got prostate surgery in full discretion? Has he set an O.R. inside Miraflores or Fuerte Tiuna?
Before, for show, Chavez stopped in Brazil and Ecuador and that must have been a mistake because he got a post op infection. And also some people found him walking strangely well for someone with an alleged serious knee injury. Arriving in Cuba he got feverish soon and they had to drain the abscess. That would have been the real "emergency" part. In a way that was a convenient excuse to justify Chavez stay while the real stuff was being done, namely the body scans.
He seems to have recovered well enough form his infection but apparently the scans were not good and they decided to start radiotherapy. Another caveat: why not chemotherapy? The more so that he has metastasized. A explanation is that under chemo he would have had to resign temporarily since you might go bonkers during the treatment. Chavez cannot go for an interim prez to preserve his tough image of caudillo. Whatever it is, the lone photo of him in Havana shows him rather gaunt and leaning on both Castro brothers. Some people said it reeked of Photoshop but then again... it matches the symptoms.
According to Gustavo's source, the radio therapy will take 25 days twice, with a ten days rest, which explains quite well how they keep postponing the return announcement. In fact they are trying to postpone the traditional July 5th parade to the eight which pretty much would fall in between two treatments, maybe allowing Chavez to set foot in Venezuela for a couple of days. After all if you travel in a plane with a medical bed incorporated, well, you can manage the round trip with a minimum of damage.
Given the uncertainty and rumors about President Hugo Chavez’ health, today’s warning from the President’s brother Adan Chavez is quite ominous. In a speech in Barinas State, Adan Chavez said:So what does it all mean? Dan Miller won't speculate just yet but does give some idea of what Venezuela and the United States would be facing:
“The revolution was born in the Bicentennial era and it made it through elections and we want it to continue that way, following a peaceful path that allows us to build Bolivarian socialism, but aware of the dangers that beset us and that the enemy does not rest, we can not forget as authentic revolutionaries, other methods of struggle. “
He then proceeded to quote Che Guevara:
“It would be inexcusable to limit ourselves to only the electoral and not see other forms of struggle, including the armed struggle.” (emphasis in original)
What would a future with a diminished or dead Chávez mean for the rest of Latin America and for the United States? Cuba, of which Venezuela under Chávez has become a de facto colony, would probably be the nation hardest hit were armed revolution or anarchy to break out in Venezuela. Cuba depends on cheap or substantially free Venezuelan oil and, despite grossly inefficient management coupled with deteriorating oil infrastructure, Venezuela has been able to produce enough to supply Cuba as well as the United States, which actually pays for it. Electricity is needed for oil production and Venezuela’s generating capacity and electrical grid are in terrible shape and getting worse; extended blackouts are a common occurrence. A Communist ideologue from Cuba has been in charge of it even though he knows very little about generating electricity. [...]I don't go with "The Devil You Know" argument. When and where there is a devil, I want him removed.
Cuba also relies on Venezuela to support Cuban trained physicians, regardless of their medical skills, as well as many others. There are many Cuban military “advisers” with substantial power over the military, resented by some in the military.
If Cuba’s Venezuelan colony ceases to be willing or able to assist Cuba, Cuba will be up the creek. Where will she turn? China? Maybe, if there’s something in it for China — perhaps a military base very close to the United States. Russia, Iran? Ditto. Indeed, probably any country capable of supporting her, willing to do so, and to which she can provide something of value. It seems unlikely that the United States would currently be willing to bail out Cuba.
How about the United States replacing Cuba as the colonial master of Venezuela? Venezuela would impose a horrendous financial drain as a de facto colony and beyond keeping her from the clutches of our enemies — possibly an important consideration if it could be done — we would gain little more than South Korea would gain by taking over and assuming responsibility for North Korea. This would likely be the case even though the United States could use Venezuelan petroleum resources and even though South Korea could use North Korean mineral resources. I have substantial doubts that it could be done, due to the disdain in which Chavistas hold the United States and their need to retain power. How would President Obama try to accomplish it? Dithering wouldn’t work. I find it very difficult to imagine that he would even try to do it in the best interests of the United States.
And I want the fat paratrooper Hugo Chavez removed from power as soon as possible.