“Cancer cells grow faster, adapt better. They are more perfect versions of ourselves.”
Siddhartha Mukherjee, ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’
“What do you hear about Chavez’s cancer surgery in Havana?” one of my gringo friends in Washington, DC queried today.
It’s the Latin American theme of the moment up north. Rarely have so many gringo policy experts been so captivated politically by a Venezuelan president’s colon.
For the moment, at least, the cancer devouring Chavez’s colon and nearby organs appears to have silenced the flood of DC-based warnings about the perils to US national security of the Tehran-Caracas terror connection.
(A fly on a wall in certain DC offices in recent days might have heard something like, “Damn it! What are we going to do with our Mahmoud-Hugo anti-American terrorism alliance if Chavez goes and dies on us before a new Republican administration takes office next January?”)
But I digress.
“Well,” I replied to my DC gringo friend, “I’ve read that Chavez had an exploratory laparotomy; that they fileted Hugo like a trout and spent 90 minutes rooting around inside his guts; that a tumor of 2 cm diameter or 3 cm or 4 cm or bigger than a golf ball was removed; that the cancer has spread so much that they closed him up and have called in the Santero babalaos; that tissue slides were sent to Russia, or Spain, or Brazil, or the United States, or all four; that he really does have less than a year to live; that Chavez will now undergo more chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, or both; that they’re going to pump him full of steroids; that the steroids Chavez has been packing away since last June have wrecked all his organs and made his cancer much worse; but Chavez himself today placed a telephone call to his pueblo assuring them of his swift recovery. Basically, I don’t have a clue. What have you heard?”
Nelson Bocaranda seems to have the best information about Chavez’s condition. Follow RunRunes and you’ll certainly know more than the Cabinet knows.
But as to whether Chavez’s physical demise is very imminent or still distant, no one really can say.
My late wife survived breast cancer for over 14 years, dying shortly before her 60th birthday. My best friend’s very young daughter perished at 28 after a valiant two-year battle. I had a pancreatic tumor removed over 11 years ago and was told immediately after I woke up that I had at best a year left, but “yerba mala nunca muere,” which is another way of saying that perhaps God created me so that everyone else in my ultra-religious Catholic family would have a black sheep relative to pray for.
My point: No one – except the physicians who treat the patient directly – really can predict one’s death from cancer.
In fact, even the doctors who know more than anyone else about cancer very frequently are mistaken when it comes to predicting the precise date and time that Charon will ferry a departing soul across the River Styx.
However, as to the political implications of Chavez’s cancer…
Chavez clearly refuses to transfer or relinquish power, and he clearly refuses to decline his presidential re-election campaign, at least for now. But the reality of Chavez’s condition – that he has a very bad cancer and it’s probably going to get worse in coming weeks and months – definitely has caused a tectonic shift in Venezuelan politics.
The sicker Chavez becomes visibly, the greater the likelihood of political turmoil and violence ahead of the 7 October presidential elections.
It’s not on the regime’s immediate agenda,which is being determined by Chavez’s condition.
But I can visualize various scenarios where Chavez grows so weak in coming months that the regime (a) tries to suspend or postpone elections, (b) unleashes its armed street thugs to intimidate and terrorize the population, (c) tries to disqualify the opposition candidate by reviving a couple of spurious criminal cases hanging over his head, or (d) assassinates the opposition presidential candidate.
Chavez’s determination – por ahora – to hang on to the bitter end has thrown the ruling PSUV party and its various parasitic allies into a frenzy.
Outwardly, everyone is proclaiming their united loyalty to Chavez, the only and forever leader and candidate of the Bolivarian revolution. But inside the PSUV it’s plomo cerrado between competing factions.
Diosdado Cabello, Rafael Ramirez, Elias Jaua, Nicolas Maduro, Henry Rangel Silva, Tarek al-Assami and other senior Bolivarian “capos” share one defining characteristic: they all hate and distrust each other.
But they also collectively and individually have everything to lose including their freedom and possibly even their lives if Chavez is felled by cancer or loses the presidential elections.
These gangsters aren’t surrendering power under any circumstances.
Chavez himself already made that abundantly clear during his nationally televised hysterical rants during the week following the MUD’s 12 February presidential primaries, which culminated with the president repeatedly calling Henrique Capriles Radonsky a pig.
Meanwhile, Capriles is already campaigning actively. Capriles is young, vigorous, telegenic, popular with young Venezuelans, and very visibly in prime physical health. Capriles pledges conciliation and inclusion for everyone, Venezuela for all Venezuelans, as it rightly should be.
Venezuelans of all socioeconomic levels are very tired of the regime’s constant violent and divisive class warfare rhetoric.
Contrast Capriles on the stump in Venezuela this week with Chavez recovering from his third cancer surgery since last June in Havana, in seclusion and under a tight security and information clampdown, leading the revolution with a telephone on speed dial, announcing only hours ago that he’s taking flight like a Condor high in the heavens, perhaps forgetting that Condors are carrion eaters – nature’s recyclers of decomposing flesh.
Chavez’s closest associates in the regime – Cabello, Jaua, Maduro, and supreme scumbag Mario Silva, among others – have shown yet again in the past four days that they haven’t got the slightest hint of a clue about their president’s true condition. They have to read Bocaranda’s Runrunes column to find out what’s happening, then immediately dismiss Bocaranda’s reports as fabrications, only to wind up with cow flop on their faces when Bocaranda’s reports are confirmed.
What does that say about the composition of Chavez’s inner circle? Clearly, Cabello, Maduro, Jaua et al aren’t in the first ring anymore, if they ever were. I suspect the president’s true inner circle includes only his oldest daughters, his older brother Adan and Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva.
As for reports today of meetings of substantial numbers of generals, colonels and such inside the armed forces who are engaged in negotiations to replace Chavez with Diosdado Cabello, or create a transitional civil-military government to guide the country through the inevitable power vacuum before new elections are held…it ain’t so.
“The generals don’t meet with the colonels and lower ranking officers because the generals in command today know that the lower-ranking officers despise them,” a close friend who is an Army Colonel told me today.
“The officers also never meet in large groups anywhere. Large meetings are risky, unsecure, and foolish. If meetings happen, which I’m not saying they do, the number of officers is always very small. Six officers is already a large group,” my pal the Colonel added.
Perhaps 20% of the current officer corps is hardcore chavista, with the most dangerous officers being Defense Minister Rangel Silva and General Cliver Alcala Cordones, he said.
The other 80% are reacting to Chavez’s worsening cancer by coalescing more strongly around the principles of professionalism, institutionalism and constitutionalism, he added.
I was skeptical, “80%?”
The Colonel acknowledged that “there’s no doubt that some of the officers now saying they’re constitutionalists are jumping the turn-style (saltando la talanquera) to cover their backs.”
But one thing’s for sure, he added. The Army will be the determinant factor in the final denouement of the Chavez era, a dark age from which Venezuela may not recover for a generation or longer.