By Dion Caputi
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has been left in a “very delicate” state following a cancer setback, his government announced Monday.
Dr. Victor Rivas, a lecturer in Latin American studies at the University of Toronto, says the political leader was being treated out of the country.
“Officially, the president of Venezuela is undergoing several treatments that have to do with a very serious illness,” Rivas told Patricia Brotzel of 96.9 Humber Radio. “He has been undergoing these treatments mostly in [Havana, Cuba].”
According to a statement from Venezuela’s communications minister Ernesto Villegas, Chavez is dealing with “a new and severe infection,” identified as a respiratory issue.
Chavez, 58, continues to be monitored as he has received “chemotherapy of strong impact,” continued Villegas in the announcement.
He was brought home on Feb. 18 to Caracas’ military hospital.
Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto, says the Venezuelan government was already in poor order prior to the news of Chavez’s illness.
“This government has been lying to its people forever,” he says. “This is supposedly a democracy where essential facts are deliberately held from the public, it’s missing openness and accountability.”
“The fact is we are getting messages we have no ways of checking,” says Braun. “We don’t know what is happening and the fact the Cubans are so involved tells us the Venezuelan government is in horrific condition.”
Regarding the optics of Chavez’s absence, Braun says Venezuelans will take notice.
“They will feel the loss,” he says. “His image was immobilizing the people.”
The news could prove troubling to the current government, as Dr. Rivas says the situation may unfold in favor of its competition.
“A lot of people believe it is a way of giving the people [an opportunity] to become anxious and rebel against the government,” says Rivas. “That would be the ideal situation for the opposition that are against the current government.”
If Chavez dies…
In the event of Hugo Chavez’ death, the government would abide by the constitution and call for an election within thirty days.
Within thirty days of the announcement, the incumbent would select a new presidential candidate.
Rivas says the current vice-president would be a strong possibility to become party leader.
“Most likely what would happen is the voters will go towards the people backing Chavez and elect the candidate who is currently the vice-president, Nicolas Maduro.”
Maduro has already begun unofficial campaigning on all broadcast channels “to tout the revolution and vilify the opposition,” reports CBC.
Chavez was last re-elected on Oct. 7, and has held office since Feb. 2, 1999, making him the longest serving president in Latin America.