When Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, in Cuba for an operation, gave a pre-recorded TV address on Thursday evening to announce that he had cancer, said that he was fine, and that he was still running the country as a long-distance president. In a phone call on Friday, he was so optimistic that he said that his illness would “strengthen” him, according to Bloomberg.
Hugo Chavez on TV on Thursday
Chavez didn’t say what kind of cancer he had, or at what stage, but doctors consulted by the Miami Herald agree that from the few details Chávez shared, he most likely has colon cancer and could face treatment for the next eight to nine months.
“What struck me is that at one point during his announcement, he misspoke and said ‘evolution’ instead of ‘evaluation.’ He corrected himself, but it was odd that in a video that was so staged — complete with props of the Venezuelan flag and a painting of Simon Bolivar — they did not do a retake,” said Douglas Leon, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation. “What does that say? To me, it says he can only stand up for about 20 minutes, and they couldn’t let him stand for the time it would take to do it over.”
The shock announcement has put Venezuelan politics into turmoil as the 2012 presidential election approaches. If and when Chavez returns to Venezuela, the country will be in considerably worse shape than it was when he left it, according to Financial Times (Access). With Chavez convalescing, there are serious problems that are likely to fall by the wayside — a housing shortage, violence in overcrowded prisons, and electrical blackouts across the country.
Venezuela’s politics is largely dependent on Chavez’s personality and personal relationships, and those relationships will suffer if Chavez is forced to leave office.
China, for example, signed a huge oil deal with Venezuela in 2009, according to the BBC.
But the greatest effect of the disappearance of Chavez, if it occurs, would be on Cuba itself. When Chavez came to power in 1999, Cuba’s economy was in tatters, after losing the East bloc support it depended on for three decades, according to AFP.
Cuba’s cooperation with Venezuela generations about $6 billion a year for Cuba, its top source of income. Venezuela is invovled in Cuban projects big and small, in oil, fiber optic cable, food supplies, technology, transportation and tourism.
Venezuela provides 100,000 barrles of oil per day to Cuba, for little or no cost, and in return, Cuba sends almost 40,000 teachers and doctors to Venezuela – who don’t always get paid.
Leading the struggle for socialism
The relationship between Venezuela and Cuba is not seen by Chavez as a purely commercial one. Chavez sees himself in the role of defeating capitalism and bringing back socialism, after the breakup of the Soviet Union. According to VenezuelAnalysis:
“The most advanced political struggles in the world today are taking place in Latin America, specifically in Cuba and Venezuela where forces representing the working class have conquered state power, broken with imperialism and continue to consolidate their own revolutions and assist the leftward advance across the continent.
Socialists should wholly identify with the leadership of the Cuban revolution, with Fidel Castro in particular, and with Hugo Chávez in Venezuela which are leaderships that seek to represent the interests of the working class and oppressed worldwide.
First upturn in world politics for 30 years
The advance of the class struggle in Latin America over the past decade was the first indication of an up-turn in the world political situation after the 1990s period of retreat following the destruction of the Soviet Union, the advance of capitalism into Eastern Europe and in Latin America including the defeat of the Nicaraguan revolution.”
I always feel that statements like these are really pathetic because, putting on my mathematician’s hat, it’s easy to prove from the mathematics of complexity theory that socialism becomes mathematically impossible as population increases. You can prove that enforcement of socialist policies eventually requires the entire population to become bureaucrats, so that there is no new production. That’s why countries like Cuba and North Korea, and Eastern Europe before the collapse of the Soviet Union, were stuck in the 1950s. It’s literally mathematically impossible for socialism to work.
That’s also why China gave up pure socialism several decades ago. It’s also why Cuba itself is changing policies and will permit the buying and selling of homes and automobiles as personal property before the end of 2011, according to Ahora (Cuba).
But Chavez isn’t being defeated by the mathematics of complexity theory. Chavez is being defeated by cancer, the great leveler of socialists and capitalists alike. Unless the Cubans find a way to completely cure him, Chavez’s dream of leading the world into a new, glorious era of socialism is not going to occur.