Following a visit to doctors in Cuba, the 57-year-old Chávez last week publically announced that a new tumor had been discovered in the area where he underwent surgery last year, following which he had said that he was “fully recovered”. He returned to Cuba at the weekend for further surgery.
In the past, the ‘in-out-in’ left-wing President has taunted his opponents that he would remain in power until 2031, even though some doctors who have treated him prior to this latest cancer was disclosed, had given him less than two years to live.
In response, Chávez increased his public appearances in an attempt to use his charismatic personality to secure another six-year term; despite his 13-years in power, during which time his ministers are often blamed for the nation’s problems, he still remains popular.
However, with no obvious successor in the frame and the belief that without him as leader, his party would not be re-elected, commentators now believe the recent secrecy about his health and this latest operation could hurt his chances of staying in power. Political analysts believe that many voters may be reluctant to elect Chávez with the possibility that because of his poor health, he may not be able to see through his full term of office.
Equally, the chances of Henrique Capriles Radonski, the governor of Miranda state, winning the presidential election were boosted earlier this year when he won the first ever opposition primary elections, organised by the Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition. Voting had to be extended by an hour when three million voters turned out, more than twice the number expected.
As a result and with this latest news on the President’s health, financial markets rallied as the possibility dawned that a more market-friendly administration may be elected into power in Venezuela.
Although the presidential elections have not yet been formally called by the National Electoral Council, there is still the possibility that they could be postponed on the grounds that Chávez could not stand because of ill health. Even so, under the country’s constitution, they must be held before the end of the year to enable the elected candidate to be sworn as President of the republic in January.