Barrie Maguire

Venezuela without Chávez?

Like all cancer patients, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez faces three scenarios: a quick cure, prolonged treatment, or an early death. Whichever way it goes – even if Chávez really is recovering as quickly as he would have us believe – talk in Venezuela about the post-Chávez era has already begun.

SANTA MARTA, COLOMBIA – Like all cancer patients, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez faces three scenarios: a quick cure, prolonged treatment, or an early death. Whichever way it goes – even if Chávez really is recovering as quickly as he would have us believe – talk in Venezuela about the post-Chávez era has already begun.

Chávez manages information about his illness and treatment as part of a political strategy. After his surgery, invoking God, Fidel Castro, the spirits of the savannah, and medical science, he responded to rumors about his illness and made his return from treatment in Havana a double celebration of Venezuela’s bicentennial and of his triumph over cancer.

Chávez is a master at manipulating the media: after the failed coup against him in 2002, he brandished a crucifix to pardon his adversaries and be pardoned by them. After his first chemotherapy session, Chávez exclaimed: “I am radically changing my life.”

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