Published: January 05. 2013 4:00AM PST
“Love is repaid with love" — that’s the message above a heart-shaped mural of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez embracing a woman in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday.
How should secrecy be treated?
Chavez hasn’t spoken publicly or been seen since his Dec. 11 operation in Cuba, and the latest report from his government increased speculation that he is unlikely to attend his Jan. 10 inaugural ceremony.
Otherwise, it’s all guesswork. He’s getting better. He’s getting worse. He’s already dead. The whole thing is a conspiracy and he was never sick in the first place.
The obsessive, circular conversations about Chavez’s health dominate family dinners, plaza chit-chats and social media sites in this country on edge since its larger-than-life leader went to Cuba for emergency cancer surgery more than two weeks ago. The man whose booming voice once dominated the airwaves for hours at a time has not been seen or heard from since.
His lieutenants have consistently assured Venezuelans over the last week that Chavez is slowly on the mend and will be back at the helm of the country he has dominated for 14 years. But when will he be back? Will he be well enough to govern? What type of cancer does he have? Is it terminal? If so, how long does he have to live? Government officials have not answered any of those questions, leaving Venezuelans to their own speculations. The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional criticized what it called an “information vacuum" in an editorial on Friday, saying Venezuelans are in the dark because “no one speaks clearly from the government." The newspaper called the situation reminiscent of secrecy that surrounded the deaths of Josef Stalin in the former Soviet Union and Mao Zedong in China.
“Everything has been a mystery. Everyone believes what they want about the status of his health," said Ismael Garcia, a leftist lawmaker who belonged to the Chavez movement until a falling-out a few years ago.
Chavez could be sworn in by the Supreme Court later on if he’s not able to take the oath of office before lawmakers next week, his vice president said Friday. Opposition groups disagree.
State television repeatedly plays video of a song in which rappers encourage Venezuelans to pray, saying of Chavez: “You will live and triumph." A recording of a speech by Chavez appears during the song, saying: “I will be with you always!"
The Associated Press