May 24, 2013
Chávez in delicate condition
Venezuelan officials acknowledge president may not be back for inauguration
CARACAS — Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro looked grim yesterday amid growing worries about President Hugo Chávez’s health and the country’s future, telling his compatriots the leader faces a “complex and hard” process after his fourth cancer-related operation in Cuba.
Maduro made the announcement one day after Chávez’s surgery, looking sad as he appeared on state television alongside two top officials who accompanied the president to Havana.
Hours after Maduro’s statement, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas acknowledged there’s a possibility that ailing Chávez may not be well enough to return home in time for his January 10 inauguration.
Villegas said that if Chávez isn’t back for his swearing-in “our people should be prepared to understand it” and said it would be “irresponsible” to hide news about the “delicateness of the current moment and the days to come.”
Villegas asked Venezuelans to see any potential delay in Chávez’s return as “when we have a sick father, in a delicate situation after four surgeries in a year and a half.”
Venezuelan state television broadcast religious services in which Chávez’s supporters prayed for his health, interspersed with campaign rallies for upcoming gubernatorial elections.
Analysts say Maduro, tapped by Chávez over the weekend as his chosen political heir, could eventually face challenges in trying to hold together the president’s diverse “Chavismo” movement, which includes groups from radical leftists to moderates, as well as military factions.
Maduro is considered to be a member of radical left wing of Chávez’s movement that is closely aligned with Cuba’s Communist government.
Without giving details, Maduro reiterated Chávez’s recent remarks that the surgery presented risks and that people should be prepared for any “difficult scenarios, which can be faced only with the unity of the people.” Still, he expressed optimism Chávez would return home.
“We’re more united than ever,” said Maduro. “We’re united in loyalty to Chávez.”
The vice-president criticized the opposition, accusing it of using Chávez’s illness to attack him. Some political adversaries have said the president should be more forthcoming about details of his pelvic cancer.
Maduro announced Tuesday night that the operation concluded successfully after more than six hours and that Chávez was to begin “special treatments,” which he didn’t specify. Chávez’s children and grand-children accompanied him in Havana during the surgery, the vice president said.
Chávez announced over the weekend that he needed to have surgery again after tests showed “some malignant cells” had reappeared in the same area of his pelvic region where tumours were previously removed.
He also said Saturday for the first time that if illness cuts his presidency short, Maduro should take his place and be elected president to continue on with his Socialist movement.
The 58-year-old Chávez won re-election in October and is due to be sworn in for a new six-year term January 10. If Chávez were to die, the Constitution says new elections should be called and held within 30 days.