Chávez, elections and cancer

One year after it was revealed that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has cancer, with the country’s October 7 presidential election looming in the horizon, there is great uncertainty about the president’s real health status.

Chávez registered his candidacy this week for a third six-year term, while the opposition coalition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, registered on Sunday. The polls show various results, but experts point out that the president has all sorts of advantages in his favor, except for one: his illness.

This isn’t an advantage for the country either. So far, Chávez has not specified the kind of cancer he is suffering, and when referring to his treatments he has provided little concrete information. After the first surgery in Cuba last June, Chávez said in October he was cancer free. Then, he flew to Havana in February for another surgery to remove a new cancerous tumor in the same pelvic area where he had surgery the first time. This was followed by radiotherapy treatments that kept Chávez away from Venezuela until late April. This past weekend, the president once again said that after the latest tests, “everything came out absolutely fine.”

The President’s ilness also creates uncertainty about the election. If the president dies before the election or even afterwards, Chavismo could be divided into potential factions that would support possible successors, but Chávez hasn’t shown the slightest intention to name a possible successor. So Chavistas and non-Chavistas alike are being left up in the air.

The country would be much better off if the cards are laid on the table. But the Venezuelan government is apparently afraid that if the president’s health gets worse or there is talk of a successor, it could translate into people abstaining from voting in October. That would be unfortunate from every point of view.

Impremedia/La Opinión