Venezuela Begins 2013 in Climate of Uncertainty

Venezuela has entered 2013 in a climate of uncertainty, centred around President Hugo Chavez’s health and whether he will be able to return to Venezuela on 10 January to be sworn in for his next presidential term. 


Mérida, 2nd January 2013 ( – Venezuela has entered 2013 in a climate of uncertainty, centred around President Hugo Chavez’s health and whether he will be able to return to Venezuela on 10 January to be sworn in for his next presidential term.

Chavez has not spoken in public since he underwent a fourth operation for cancer on 11 December in Havana, Cuba.

On 30 December the Venezuelan government released a communique in which Chavez’s post-operatory recovery was described as “delicate” and with “complications”, which were related to a respiratory infection developed since the operation.

The update provoked concern and messages of support for Chavez from supporters and the government.

The news also led to a wave of speculation and negative commentary by opposition supporters, while some opposition leaders were criticised in the private media as maintaining “silence” following the announcement.

On 31 December, in response to the rumours and negative comments emanating from social networks, Venezuela’s science minister and Chavez’s son-in-law, Jorge Arreaza, urged on his twitter account, “Fellow citizens, don’t believe in badly intentioned rumours. President Chavez spent today calm and stable”.

In the capital, Caracas, New Year’s Eve was marked by a mass and an open air singing event where supporters offered prayers and sent Chavez wishes of a speedy recovery.

“I saw that Chavez had great strength”

Yesterday night, Venezuelan Vice-president Nicolas Maduro offered another update on Chavez’s recovery. Maduro is Chavez’s chosen successor should he be unable to assume the presidency and new presidential elections have to be called.

Speaking in an interview with Telesur from Havana, he said that, “We have trust and faith in God and the doctors that our comandante Hugo Chavez will continue improving and sooner rather than later he will move out of this complex and delicate situation, that is the post-operatory stage”.

Commenting further on Chavez’s progress, Maduro said, “We’re constantly awaiting his positive development. Sometimes he’s had slight improvements, sometimes he stays the same”. He also declared that, “We will always tell the truth” in relation to official information on Chavez’s health.

Maduro, who spoke with Chavez on two occasions over the New Year, further reported that, “I saw that Chavez had great strength…the strength of always”. He added that Chavez had asked him about political and economic affairs in Venezuela, including the swearing-in of the newly-elected state governors.

The Venezuelan government also released a message yesterday in which Chavez congratulated the Cuban people on the fifty-fourth anniversary of the Cuban revolution.

Maduro, who returns to Venezuela today, joined the attack against negative comments around Chavez’s health coming from some sectors of the opposition, saying, “That crazy right-wing think that an out-of-control people, due to their love turned to rage, will benefit them”.

The Opposition Considering Strategy

Opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has asked supporters not to “fall into the trap of rumours and hate” in the current political climate.

Leaders from the opposition’s Democratic Unity coalition (MUD) are to meet in the coming days to discuss the opposition’s “strategy”, depending on whether Chavez is able to attend his swearing-in ceremony on 10 January.

“The president’s health is an issue, and what’s established in the constitution is clear in relation to absences,” said MUD spokesperson and parliamentary deputy, Enrique Marquez.

There has been debate in Venezuela over what should happen if Chavez is unable to be in Venezuela on 10 January, with some members of the opposition arguing that this would constitute an “absolute absence”.

However, government leaders have pointed to article 231 of the Venezuelan constitution, which stipulates that if the president-elect is unable to attend the 10 January ceremony in the national assembly, the ceremony can instead be conducted in front of the Supreme Court, with no date specified in that case. 

A Year of Achievements

Maduro also claimed in his interview yesterday that 2012 had been a “year of historic achievements” for Venezuela.

According to the vice president, these achievements include Venezuela’s entry into Mercosur and the development of the Socialist Plan of the Nation 2013 – 2019. The victory of the government’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in 20 of 23 states in recent regional elections was another gain mentioned.

Maduro also highlighted economic advances in 2012, with 5.5% growth, below-target inflation of 19.9%, and a fall in unemployment to 6.4%.