Just days away from his Presidential inauguration, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is feared by many to be at death’s door. Last seen in early December soon after his triumphant reelection, Chavez is currently in Cuba attempting to recover from his fourth cancer-related surgery in the past year and a half. Several members of his family and close cabinet ministers flew this week to Cuba to visit Chavez, following reports that his condition was considered “delicate.”
News reports have rampantly speculated over his impending demise with headlines such as “Hugo Chavez ‘living his last days,'” (Daily Telegraph), “Chavez ‘only kept alive by life support'” (Daily Mail), and “Chavez Rumored to Be in Coma,” (HispanicBusiness.com). Rumors are also circulating that Chavez has already passed away. But Vice President Nicholas Maduro, angered by the rumors, publicly denounced them after returning from a visit with Chavez where he said he spoke twice with him. Maduro asserts that Chavez is “completely conscious of the complexity of his post-operative state.”
Meanwhile, the opposition movement in Venezuela has called for a new election within 30 days if Chavez is too ill to attend his inauguration on the 10th. Chavez’s supporters in Latin America, which include a number of other Presidents, have expressed their solidarity: Bolivia’s Evo Morales sent him a public message of strength toward “a quick recovery.”
GUEST: Miguel Tinker Salas, professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College and author of “The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.” His forthcoming book is called “Venezuela: Everything you Need to Know,” and he is one of the featured writers on this week’s New York Times Blog, Room for Debate
Click here to read Salas’ New York Times blog post about Hugo Chavez.