President Chávez has had health problems for one year
Customarily omnipresent in Venezuelans lives and used to preside over dozen official events, President Hugo Chávez, 57, has spent the last year between Caracas and Havana. He has been for more than 100 days in Cuba to treat a cancer of unknown nature and seriousness
Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez completed on Wednesday, May 9, one year facing health problems worsened by a cancer that has forced him to spend long periods in Cuba. In the meantime, he tries to fill the gap with the support of Twitter and his ministers' deployment in the field.
"The president will have one year ill and his absence from the country is more and more apparent. Over the past couple of months, he has barely shown up and his relationship with society is virtually via Twitter and on the telephone," historian Margarita López Maya told AFP.
Customarily omnipresent in Venezuelans' lives and used to preside over dozen official events, President Hugo Chávez, 57, has spent the last year between Caracas and Havana. He has been for more than 100 days in Cuba to treat a cancer of unknown nature and seriousness.
While he has not stopped ruling from the Cuban capital city, insofar as he has refused to delegate his functions onto Vice-President Elías Jaua, the Venezuelan leader has minimized his public appearances on the state-run media. Instead, his ministers have deployed throughout the nation in order to have a higher government profile.
According to López Maya, Chávez's illness "has given more room to ministers and pro-government political leaders, who purport to control the situation and get the impression that institutions are in place," regardless of the president's absence.
Further, such deployment is set to "keep high expectation that Chávez will arrive at October 7," the election day, where the president, who took over in 1999, is seeking reelection for a third term in office.
Notwithstanding his absence, Chávez continues overtaking his challenger, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, in all polls.
"Chávez's high popularity is intact." There is likely a "physical void," but his "symbolic, speech and action" power is still effective, noted the CEO of pollster Datanálisis, Luis Vicente León.
Chávez cast out of the scene for the first time on May 9, 2011, when he adjourned a tour of Brazil, Ecuador and Cuba, as the result of an injury in his left knee.
Ending the tour, which eventually started on June 6, Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro informed that Chávez had undergone surgery in Havana for a pelvic abscess. The contingency made the president remain in the island for several weeks.
The adjournment on June 29 of the summit establishing the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Clacs), slated for July in Caracas, was the anteroom of the bad news. The day after, in an address to the nation from Havana, Chávez disclosed that he suffered cancer and had been successfully operated on for a tumor in his pelvic area.
After four cycles of chemotherapy, the president was adamant in October that he had recovered and tried to resume his intensive, usual agenda.
In December, he chaired the longed-for Clacs summit in Caracas. A tireless president spoke for more than nine hours at the legislature. In addition, he re-launched his TV and radio show "Aló, Presidente" (Hello President!). However, the program would be on air only once.
In spite of his best endeavors to look like healthy, Chávez was operated on again in February for a recurring cancer. One month later, he started radiotherapy. The treatment made him vanish and use Twitter as virtually the only means of communication with the country during his stay in Havana.
"In Venezuela, a president able to talk endlessly turned into a president who needs to be sparing with his words," López Maya commented.
Likewise, doubts about his real health condition have augmented.
"The situation is somewhat blurred" and there are "inconsistencies" because "no cancer treatment in pelvis or abdomen is conducted this way," reasoned Carlos Dzik, an oncologist with Sao Paolo's Syrian-Lebanese Hospital.
"If Hugo Chávez is under radiotherapy, that means only one thing: that there is a tumor problem in the pelvis, yet this does not prevent metastasis," he added. However, President Chávez has stubbornly denied such a condition.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Brazil on March 13 to demand the ouster of embattled President Dilma Rousseff, carrying banners expressing anger at bribery scandals and economic woes. A banner read "We don't want a new Venezuela in Brazil."