No one has heard or seen from Chavez since his operation in Cuba on December 11th except for his entourage and relatives who are with him in the Cuban capital. Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who has assumed power in absence of the president, announced Friday that he was “leaving for Havana to continue that work of visiting the family, meeting with his medical team, visiting our commander president.”
Cuban officials are keeping a tight lip while the world waits with abated breath. The only thing that has been said is that Chavez, 58, is fighting a severe respiratory infection a month after he underwent cancer surgery in Havana.
Chavez’s apparent deteriorating condition has sent shockwaves in the Americas, from Alaska to Patagonia. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala are due to arrive Friday in the Cuban capital. Meanwhile, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua was live in Downtown Caracas last weekend to show support for the Venezuelan people in a massive vigil held to save Chavez’ life.
Hugo Chavez is by far one of most revered politicians and head of states in Latin America in modern times. Using Cuba as his model, Chavez has used the country’s oil revenues to create social programs that ultimately lifted millions of formerly deprived Venezuelans out of poverty. He has also used his country’s wealth to help his fellow leftist counterparts in Latin America in an effort to wipe out US influence in the region. His love for Fidel Castro and his blistering attacks against the United States have greatly contributed to his popularity.
Maduro was making his second trip to Cuba since Chavez’s surgery. He said he would meet with Argentine’s Fernandez at the Hotel Nacional along Havana’s waterfront on Friday morning. Authorities have characterized the Argentine leader’s trip as a private visit and her foreign minister said Thursday that she intended to meet with Chavez.
So, the world waits.