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Opinion and Analysis: Politics

Chavez: The Harassment of a Patient

I don’t believe modern history has ever seen a medical patient so pressured, hounded, and harassed as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias has been over the course of the last month.

In particular, a medical patient has never been so under assault as President Chavez has been in the days since he returned from Havana, where he recently spent several weeks in cancer-related convalescence.

The forces behind the harassment of this patient (the President) are based both at home and abroad, with the most recent example coming out of Washington last week.

There, in the United States capital, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland not only attempted to interpret the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuelan (1999) but went as far as to recommend what we the Venezuelan people should do “if the President becomes unable to govern”.

No one needs to tell us, Venezuelans, what we must do in that case, or any other case for that matter, and that is precisely the opportune response given to Ms. Nuland by our Foreign Minister, Elias Jaua.

According to the State Department, however, the response Jaua gave was somehow “disproportionate”.

Considering the fact that Washington’s statements were nothing less than the open meddling into issues that are for Venezuelans to resolve, how else should our Foreign Affairs Ministry respond?

By denouncing “another new and grotesque example of Washington’s meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs”, Caracas was responding to a historical record that exists – a record that includes the creation of an “office” tasked with studying the “problem of transition” in our country back in 2002.

What did they expect?

Did they expect Venezuela to remain silent?

Did they expect us to thank them for their “cooperation”?

Now, with respect to the hounding at home, this has manifested itself in the most varied, disrespectful, and coarse of manners.

This domestic hounding has arisen from a diversity of sources, from a pool of media that includes social networks (Twitter, for example) used repeatedly with the greatest deal of irresponsibility.

If I’m not mistaken, the most recent case of Venezuelan assaults on the patient (President) was the filing of a petition to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) demanding President Chavez be sworn into office immediately and that a medical board be assigned the task of assuring he is capable of doing so.

Perhaps the petition’s authors are unaware that the formation of such a medical team must be approved by the country’s National Assembly, the same National Assembly that unanimously approved President Chavez’s medical leave, leading us to the conclusion that nothing will come of the petition even if the TSJ were to consider it.

As it relates to the President’s swearing in, the irreversible ruling by the nation’s only legitimate Constitutional Court (the TSJ) is sufficiently clear: Chavez’s oath of office will be taken before the TSJ “once confirmation is given that the intervening motives impeding his swearing in have been overcome”.

Clearly, this is not yet the case.

And even more obvious, the authors of the aforementioned petition know that this is not yet the case.

One pending issue to be resolved is the unanimous authorization granted by the National Assembly to President Chavez so that he carry out an extended medical leave in neighboring Cuba.

It seems logical to suppose that once the President returned to the country that authorization is no longer relevant – considering the authorization was given, as stipulated in the Constitution, so that the President remain legally outside of Venezuelan territory for over five days.

If it becomes necessary for him to return to Cuba again, it’s also logical to assume that another authorization can be requested.

My guess is that it won’t be necessary given the caliber of medical care and conditions at the Military Hospital (where Chavez is currently being treated) as well as the capacity of the team of medical professionals accompanying him (in Caracas).

In any event, if his health required him to do so, the President himself could decree a temporary absence for a period of 90 days.

Like all the other battles he has faced, and always with the support of the people, Chavez is sure to win this one as well.

Eleazar Diaz Rangel is currently Editor-in-Chief of Ultimas Noticias, Venezuela’s most widely-read newspaper. He served as Dean at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) School of Social Communication, President of the Association of Venezuelan Journalists and member of the Board of Directors of the country’s National Press Workers Union. He is also a founding member of the Latin American Federation of Journalists (FELAP).