Opinion and Editorial

Uncertainty in Venezuela

Filed on January 5, 2013

AS SPECULATIONS about Hugo Chavezís health are making headlines worldwide, his subordinates continue to mince their words regarding his condition.

Chavez recently underwent a third surgery for cancer in Havanna, Cuba, but according to his aides, he has been suffering from complications following a lung infection he developed subsequently. His Vice-President Nicolas Manduro recently gave a televised address to the nation, in which he talked about the gravity of Chavez’s poor health, but said that he was stable. Mandura, who Chavez has nominated as his successor, was careful not to divulge any concrete details about Chavez’s condition during his address. However, according to the latest announcement by the information minister, Ernesto Villegas, the president developed a severe lung infection after the surgical procedure.

An air of uncertainty prevails in Venezuela, after rumours about the president’s death have been circulating like wild fire. His aides have been quick to dismiss them, with Mandura denouncing them as fabrications with the “ultimate aim of destabilising the Bolivarian republic”.

Still, in the absence of any independent reports about the president’s health, apprehensions about Venezuela’s political future are rife. And there’s good reason for this. Chavez has been in power since 1999; he was recently elected as the president for the consecutive third time. During the thirteen years of his tenure, he has ruled with an iron fist, centralising decision-making authority in his hands. In Venezuela, institutions have little power; it’s the omnipotent president who has had the final word on important matters of politics since so many years.

It’s difficult to imagine a Venezuela without Chavez’s towering personality, and perhaps this is the reason why his aides and the common public appear nervous. But it’s time that his confidants are honest with the public about their leader’s health and take adequate measures for the worst-possible scenario. Venezuelans really cannot afford to wait complacently, hoping against hope for their strongman to recover and take charge of the country’s affairs.

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