Venezuelan Vice-President Affirms Chavez to Continue Governing, Venezuelans Promise to Keep Fighting

On Friday Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua told reporters that president Hugo Chavez is still ¨fully able to run the country¨ and will be back in Venezuela ¨within the 180 days¨ permitted by the Venezuelan Constitution in cases of temporary presidential absences.

By Juan Reardon - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Havana, Cuba, during a working meeting on 29 June 2011 (Agencies)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Havana, Cuba, during a working meeting on 29 June 2011 (Agencies)
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Caracas, 1st July 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Friday Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua told reporters that president Hugo Chavez is still ¨fully able to run the country¨ and will be back in Venezuela ¨within the 180 days¨ permitted by the Venezuelan Constitution in cases of temporary presidential absences. Jaua’s statements, along with other voices of support and solidarity, came just hours after Venezuela’s Chavez announced that recent medical interventions in Cuba included the removal of a cancerous tumor that require ongoing treatment.  

¨We believe that the president is fully able to continue running the country; the medical reports confirm that this is so,¨ said Jaua on Friday morning.

¨President Chavez is in full control of his physical, mental, and constitutional capacities. As such, we do not consider it necessary to activate any sort of delegation of presidential authority,¨ he affirmed. 

Speaking from Havana on Thursday night, Chavez informed the Venezuelan people that recent medical interventions to overcome hip discomfort resulted in the discovery of ¨a foreign mass in the pelvic area, leading to an emergency surgery¨ on June 11th. After further studies, Chavez said, medical staff ¨confirmed the existence of an abscessed tumor with cancerous cells¨ which required a second surgery ¨to fully remove said tumor.¨

On Friday, additional footage of Chavez was aired on Venezuelan public media airwaves. The footage, which was said to be filmed during a 29 June working meeting held in Havana with members of his executive cabinet, show Chavez talking over daily matters, including the pending summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Many in both the pro- and anti-Chavez camps had been left guessing as to Chavez’s health condition ever since the Venezuelan president first fell ill on 8 June 2011 during a diplomatic stop in Cuba. Different members of the Chavez administration have made contradictory comments regarding the president’s health, generally attempting to minimize concerns and quell rumors, while members of the privately-owned media and opposition lawmakers circulated rumors of a near-dead president.

Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution stipulates that an acting president becomes legally unable to serve as president if, among other things, he/she suffers ¨permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly.¨

If the certified disability makes the president unable to serve, ¨during the last two years of his constitutional term of office, the Executive Vice-President shall take over the Presidency of the Republic until such term is completed.¨

Article 234 of the constitution stipulates that the country’s president can be temporarily absent for a total 180 days without having to delegate presidential powers to the Executive Vice-President. After an initial absence of 90 days, a second period of 90 days can be granted if approved by the majority of the National Assembly.

Since Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in early June, Opposition members of the Venezuelan National Assembly have argued that Article 11 of the constitution, which defines the territories that make up ¨the full sovereignty of the republic,¨ makes governing from outside of Venezuela unconstitutional.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Venezuela’s General-in-Chief, Henry Rangel Silva, affirmed that while army intelligence units have ¨yet to detect¨ specific threats to constitutional order, he expected extremist members of the anti-Chavez opposition to begin ¨whispering in the ears¨ of the Venezuelan Armed Forces. Either way, he said, the Venezuelan military of today ¨has a strong democratic conviction and understands the role of the institution as guarantor of the National Constitution.¨

Rangel Silva also commented on Chavez’s health, saying that while he saw the president ¨a few pounds lighter, he’s on his feet¨ and is ¨recovering in a satisfactory way.¨

Other Voices of Support and reaction on the ground

On Friday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos issued a statement of solidarity with Chavez on behalf of the Colombian people, expressing their hopes to see the Venezuelan president ¨recover quickly.¨

In Bolivia, Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera expressed his country’s support for Chavez, saying that Bolivia ¨sends him [Chavez] strength for his return, and hopes to see him again with that same energy and integrity that has him leading the processes of social betterment for the Venezuelan and Latin American peoples.¨

In response to the news from Chavez that he had undergone a more serious operation than originally thought, many of his supporters expressed their ongoing support and solidarity for the Venezuelan leader. Venezuelanalysis interviewed a number of activists.

Magda Uzcategui, writer and education activist, Merida, said, "I wasn't expecting the news, but Chavez always faces up to things in the most difficult moments, and once again he's shown his leadership. I'm in shock because he's an important leader, and I'm a bit sad. But while, on the one hand, it’s too early to say what's going to happen, there's the feeling that he's still on top of things. We feel his absence, and we're calm, but there's also a bit of doubt. He has the situation under control though and the uncertainty isn't blinding us."

Elias Sanchez, communal council spokesperson, also in Merida affirmed, "Right now we're called on to reflect deeply and to double all our efforts for the transformation of society, that's how I feel right now. Rather than this fight for a just and sovereign country being over, now is when there is a people that is conscious of its responsibilities. We mustn't lose sight of our final objective, nothing should distract us. I want to say to Chavez, thank you for kindling the revolutionary flame, thank you for giving us the tools to make a revolution, thank you for broadening our collective memory and making us aware of our rebellious past…"

"I'm confident that the people will continue fighting, they are enthusiastic and hard working," Sanchez said.

Rosiris Berroteran, of the Tatuy television collective, Merida, stated, "The important thing right now is solidarity with Chavez, comrade to comrade. He's passing through a difficult time and we hope he recovers quickly. Right now, comrades in all the different trenches- in the different struggles and movements, will continue their activities and continue the three Rs, rectification, reimpulse, and revision. We'll continue carrying out our roles in the struggle for the transformation of society and for socialism."

“We are extremely upset by last night’s news, and we ask God to look after our commander’s health. The opposition is probably extremely happy, but we ask them to behave correctly as human beings and put their hand on their hearts since this illness, cancer, really doesn’t see colour nor race. We’re here in Venezuela giving emotional support to Chávez and we will keep doing it," said Julian Antonio Piergallini Ortiz, comunal council spokesperson in el Clarito, Coro.

 Euclides Arrollo, a public sector worker in construction who works for Fundaregión in the state of Falcón, said, “We hope he gets better soon, we need him to get better soon – even if someone else takes control - he’s the only leader in Venezuela – but we’ll keep supporting him from here.” 

Finally, Elba de Alastra, of the San Antonio communal council in Coro, Falcon, affirmed, “Chávez isn’t gone, Chavez is in the hearts of the people. Last night I was happy, because I saw and heard my president, as soon as we see him, we know that he is taking care of everything. Last night the Venezuelan people learned that Chávez is human, like everyone, he suffers from the same illnesses as everyone.” 

“Although one day, there will have to be someone else, because he’s not immortal...No, no sir, this won’t stop our revolution...it will drive it forward. Look at me, I’m retired, but am I at home? No. I’m out working for my community, the community that Chávez gave to us – we didn’t have this before - now the communities have the power, the communities make decisions. Last night it made us stronger, to see him there and know that he is going to come out of this. We are more united than ever.”