Monday, January 28, 2013

Isn't the Body Double Ready Yet?

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has defeated a respiratory infection and has begun additional medical treatment in Cuba after struggling with complications following cancer surgery more than six weeks ago, a government spokesman said Saturday.

Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said that it remains unclear how soon Chavez could return home, and did not specify the kind of treatment he is receiving.

"Vice-President [Nicolas] Maduro estimates that the time it could take President Chavez to return is within weeks. But we haven't wanted to fix an exact timeframe for the president's recuperation," Villegas told reporters on the sidelines of a 60-nation summit in Chile.

He read a statement that went beyond past government reports in providing additional information about Chavez's Dec. 11 surgery, but didn't describe the newest treatment. While refusing to release many details about the president's cancer, authorities in the past have reported on specific treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy.

"Forty-five days after carrying out a complex surgical intervention for the removal of a malignant lesion in the pelvis, with severe, acute complications, the patient's general evolution is favourable," Villegas said, reading the statement.

"At this time, the serious respiratory infection has been overcome, although a certain degree of respiratory deficiency persists and is being duly treated," Villegas said.

After that improvement, Villegas said, "systemic medical treatment for the fundamental illness began to be applied as a complement to the surgery."

Villegas also criticized Spain's leading newspaper El Pais, which was forced to reprint its Thursday edition after discovering that its front-page exclusive photograph supposedly showing an ailing Chavez being treated in Cuba was a fake.

The newspaper apologized to its readers for the mistake and said it was investigating how the photo made its way into the paper.

"But who has apologized to Chavez or his family?" Villegas said.

"In Venezuela we've seen a phenomenon where even the atheists are praying for Chavez," he said. "In Uruguay, President Mujica, who's not a believer, organized a Mass and prayed for Chavez."
'Best moment we've seen him'

Chavez hasn't appeared or spoken publicly since before the operation.

Maduro said early Saturday after meeting with Chavez in Cuba that the ailing president is now "in the best moment we've seen him in these days of struggle" following the surgery.

Maduro spoke on state television after returning from Havana to Venezuela, and before he travelled to Chile for the summit.

"We're taking a message prepared by the president, and we're going to turn it over to heads of state who attend the CELAC summit. He makes fundamental proposals," Maduro said, adding that the message was in Chavez's handwriting.

Maduro said Chavez also sent a message for Venezuelans, including that he was "very optimistic" about his treatment. Maduro said Chavez is "hanging on to Christ and to life."

Chavez has undergone repeated surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment for an unspecified type of pelvic cancer. He has undergone much of his treatment in Cuba.

The 58-year-old president won re-election in October, and lawmakers indefinitely put off his inauguration earlier this month in a decision that was condemned by opponents but upheld by the Supreme Court.

The vice-president said that Chavez "has reviewed and evaluated reports on different areas and has made decisions."

He said Chavez evaluated the country's economic situation and budget and made decisions about gold reserves, funding for public housing projects and "social investments and economic development." Maduro didn't give more details but said the actions approved by the president were intended to "guarantee the country's economic growth, infrastructure, housing."

Maduro said that one of the documents signed by Chavez dealt with the selection of his socialist party's candidates for mayoral elections later this year. The vice-president showed the signature in red ink on one of the documents.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Donde 'sta Hugo?

from UPI
CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling letting President Hugo Chavez begin his new term Thursday in absentia was politically motivated, a key opposition leader said.

The court's ruling was intended "to resolve the problem" in the ruling United Socialist Party of a growing power struggle between Vice President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, Henrique Capriles said.

The power struggle has "totally paralyzed" the government, he said.

Maduro is the man Chavez said he wanted as his party's candidate in case he himself couldn't continue as president. Chavez appealed to voters to vote for Maduro. Cabello is a former vice president with close ties to Venezuela's military but has few ties to the Cuban revolution.

Chavez -- who declared himself fully recovered from his unspecified cancer July 9 -- flew to Cuba Dec. 10 for additional cancer surgery. He later developed a severe pulmonary infection that has resulted in a "respiratory insufficiency," the government said Jan. 3.

Chavez won election to a fourth term Oct. 7 and was to be inaugurated Thursday.

Capriles -- the governor of Miranda, one of the country's most populous states, which includes part of Caracas, the capital -- said the Supreme Court's ruling did not achieve its intended political resolution because it did "not clear the uncertainty that exists in the country."

But it is binding, he said, challenging Maduro, who is filling in for Chavez, to take leadership and solve Venezuela's many pressing problems.

"The excuses are over, Mr. Maduro," Capriles said. "It now falls on you to assume the responsibility of the office and govern."

The court ruled Wednesday Chavez had a right to an indefinite absence due to his ill health. The court, known as the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, ruled Maduro would continue in Chavez's place and said members of the current Chavez regime would "continue fully exercising their functions under the principle of administrative continuity."

Court President Luisa Estella Morales, who read the ruling aloud, also rejected demands a delegation of doctors be sent to Cuba to evaluate Chavez's health.

"At no time has the Supreme Court considered that there were merits to convening a medical board at this time," she said.

Maria Elena Ferrer, a Venezuelan national and political author who runs the Humanamente consulting firm in New York, told United Press International Wednesday the court's ruling reflected swift political changes to the court's makeup shortly before Chavez flew to Cuba.

"When the government saw it could no longer conceal the truth about Chavez's health, the leaders immediately rushed through changes, rearranging the Supreme Court justices," she said.

"The leaders knew the court would have to make a decision like this in January and they wanted to make sure the decision would support the regime," Ferrer said.

"The ruling highlights for the umpteenth time the lack of the rule of law in Venezuela," she told UPI.

Chavez has not been seen in public for a month, the longest stretch of his 14 years in power.

Cabello told a rally Wednesday "Chavez is the people" so the Venezuelan people would be sworn in as the national leader Thursday.

He told a news conference Monday leaders from "friendly" nations would travel to Caracas Thursday in a show of support. He did not say who the leaders would be.

Cabello also said the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, the apex of the nation's system of youth orchestras, would give a performance Thursday in honor of Chavez at the Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex, Venezuela's most important theater.
Was the Recent Election a Fraud? We'll find out when the opposition marches on 1/23.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Donde Esta el Comandante?

from Reuters
Venezuela's opposition on Wednesday demanded the government tell "the whole truth" about the health of cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez, who has not been heard from in three weeks after undergoing a grueling operation in Cuba.

Officials have acknowledged the usually garrulous former soldier's health is delicate after his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months, but they have offered scant details on his condition.

He has not spoken in public in more than three weeks.

Ramon Aveledo, head of the opposition Democratic Unity coalition, slammed the government for not keeping its word about keeping Venezuelans informed.

"The official version (of Chavez's health) hides more information than it gives," Aveledo said at a press conference.

"The vice president himself has promised to tell the truth, whatever it is. Fine, he should tell it. He should tell the whole truth," said Aveledo.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, whom Chavez last month designated as his heir apparent, on Tuesday said in an interview from Havana that Chavez had recognized the complexity of his post-operative condition.

Maduro said he was returning to Venezuela after several days visiting with Chavez and his relatives, which may quell rumors his trip to Cuba signaled the president was in his final days.

The president's son-in-law and Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is in Havana, said via his Twitter account on Wednesday that the medical team told him Chavez's condition "remains stable" but that his health is still delicate.

"Commander Chavez is fighting hard and he sends his love to the people. Dedication and patience!!!" he tweeted.

Chavez's abrupt exit from the political scene would be a shock for Venezuela, where his oil-financed socialism has made him a hero to the poor majority but a nemesis to critics who call him a dictator.

He is still set to be sworn in on January 10, as laid out in the constitution. If he dies or steps aside, new elections would be held within 30 days, with Maduro running as the Socialist Party candidate.


Chavez suffered unexpected bleeding and a respiratory infection after a six-hour operation on December 11. Terse official statements have said nothing about when he might be expected back or whether his life is in danger.

The government has provided none of the signature videos or pictures released after Chavez was diagnosed with cancer in June 2011 and his relapse in 2012. And allies have refused to discuss the possibility that he could hand over power or resign.

Chavez last year staged what appeared to be remarkable comeback from the disease to win reelection to a third six-year term in October despite being weakened by radiation therapy. He returned to Cuba for new treatment within weeks of his win.

Officials from the ruling Socialist Party are now suggesting his inauguration could be postponed indefinitely to accommodate his health.

Aveledo insisted the government should stick to the January 10 timeline called for in the constitution.

"Trying to make the country believe that the president is governing is absurd to the point of being irresponsible," he said. "January 10 marks the end of one presidential term and the start of another. As such, there is no continuation of the current government."

Aveledo said if Chavez cannot make it back in time, he should hand power over to the president of Congress - who would temporarily run the country while elections are called.

Congress, controlled by Chavez allies, on Saturday elects a new president. Current Congress chief Diosdado Cabello, a close Chavez ally who could be reelected to head the legislature, has at times been considered a rival of Maduro. The two have taken great pains in recent weeks to publicly deny this.

While the constitution cites January 10 as the start of the new term, it does not explicitly state what happens if the president does not take office on that date.

Chavez's condition is being watched closely by Latin American countries that have benefited from his generous assistance, as well as Wall Street investors who are drawn to Venezuela's lucrative and heavily traded bonds.