9 January 2013, 15:25

Venezuela will wait for Chavez

Venezuela will wait for Chavez

It has been officially announced in Venezuela that President Hugo Chavez, who is undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba, will not return to the country for his inauguration initially scheduled for January 10. The ceremony has been postponed, but no new date has been fixed.

National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello announced that the Bolivarian revolution leader would be given whatever time would be necessary for him to recover.

Analysts fear Chavez’s long-lasting treatment may provoke a constitutional crisis. The Venezuelan opposition accused parliament of interpreting the Constitution too frivolously and demanded that the National Assembly Speaker assume presidential duties in Chavez’s absence. Before leaving for Cuba, Chavez appointed Vice President and Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro as Acting President.

Will Chavez return? What will happen to Venezuela if he doesn’t? This is the hottest and most widely debated topic in Latin America today.

Venezuela, which has the largest oil reserves in the Western hemisphere, supports many left and center-left regimes in far and near countries. There are few optimistic forecasts about its political future, however. Russian analysts believe that it’s too early to write Chavez off. Cuba’s medical system is one of the best in the world and really capable of helping Chavez improve his health, says Nikolai Kalashnikov, deputy head of the Russian Institute of Latin American Studies.

"With Chavez in power, Venezuela will be politically stable. A change of leadership may plunge it into political instability. But it’s hard to predict anything in Venezuela. The most optimistic scenario is that the country will continue moving along the path of democracy after a change of regime and that there will be normal presidential and parliamentary elections with no manifestations of extremism."

Venezuela is so deeply integrated in the Latin American regional structures that it’s unlikely that anyone would seek to destabilize it, thinks Boris Martynov, a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

"In my opinion, the current situation in Venezuela will not take radical forms. The past few years have shown that the Chavez regime has a pretty robust footing. No one needs sharp turns. Neither Chavez’s supporters, nor the opposition will benefit from them. The opposition has grown stronger but is still fairly weak to be guaranteed an election victory."

Hugo Chavez, who has been ruling Venezuela for 14 years, won the October 2012 presidential polls. In December, he underwent yet another cancer surgery in Havana, his fourth in half a year. He has been in Cuba ever since. Amid scarce official information about Chavez’s health condition, some Latin American and Spanish newspapers have been speculating that he is in a coma or connected to an artificial life support system.

Instead of the inauguration ceremony, there will be a huge pro-Chavez rally in Caracas with Uruguayan leader Jose Mujica, Bolivian President Evo Morales and other regional leaders expected to attend.

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