There are very few polarizing figures in modern Latin America and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is clearly one of them. To some (especially those who run with oil companies), he is despised. To others (mostly those who believe in rights for the poor), he is revered. The last few weeks have been a online swirl of online rumors and reports that claim that Chávez is either dead or alive, or dead again, or alive again after going through cancer surgery in Cuba in early December.
One outlet had the cojones to report with all due certainty that Chávez is dead. Argentina’s El Informador Público published a story yesterday saying that Chávez died in Havana on January 2, but that the decision to publicly announce his death is being delayed because to quell the internal issues in Venezuela. The opposition is ready to push for new elections in the next 30 days, especially since Chávez must be sworn in by January 10, according to its interpretation of the Venezuelan constitution. And if he is dead, then you can imagine.
Additionally, a YouTube video was posted from “Exclusive World News,” allegedly showing a picture of a dead Chávez. If the rumors have to be shared, you might as well have a picture, yes? Proving once again that you can find anything on the Internet.
In the meantime, Chávez’s vice president, Nicolás Maduro, told the Telegraph yesterday that Chávez could get sworn in after the January 10 date, and that the opposition is just missing the point. Maduro admits that Chávez is still battling major health challenges, but he spoke with certainty that Chávez was still alive.
Reports from Venezuela also show serious concern from supporters that Chávez is fighting for his life. Here is what The Guardian said yesterday:
…supporters wait anxiously for any scrap of news from Havana, Cuba, where their president is fighting for his life after emergency cancer surgery.
“We are all very confused. We have no idea what to expect. I pray for his recovery but I am expecting the worst,” said Joaquín Cavarcas, as he scanned the Ciudad CCS newspaper for the latest update.
Yesterday the Associated Press reported the following:
Venezuelan lawmakers will meet Saturday in a session that could shed light on what steps may be taken if President Hugo Chavez is too sick to be sworn in for a new term next week.
Legislators will choose a president, two vice presidents and other leaders of the National Assembly, which is controlled by a pro-Chavez majority. Whoever is elected National Assembly president could end up being the interim president of Venezuela if Chavez is unable to be inaugurated on Thursday as scheduled.
Brewing disagreements over how to handle a possible transition of power also could be aired at the session, coming just five days before the scheduled inauguration day specified in the constitution. Chavez’s health crisis has raised contentious questions ahead of the swearing-in, including whether the inauguration could legally be postponed.
The government revealed this week that Chavez is fighting a severe lung infection and receiving treatment for “respiratory deficiency” more than three weeks after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba. The announcement suggests a deepening crisis for the 58-year-old president and has fed speculation that he likely is not well enough to travel to Caracas for the inauguration.
Personally, I think Chavez is on his deathbed. I tweeted an article from the Christian Science Monitor the other day that said it best in that it has really become hard to imagine Venezuela without Chavez much like Cuba without Castro. It will be interesting to see how long Chavismo will last in Venezuela once he is gone.