Latin America

Chavez finally admits to cancer treatment

I’m sure some readers won’t believe me, but I take no pleasure in Hugo Chavez’s announcement today from Cuba that he underwent surgery for removal of cancerous cells from a tumor, and I have no use for anyone who considers it cause for celebration.

I agree with Teodoro Petkoff, editor of the opposition newspaper Tal Cual, who told Reuters: “For the Republic, the best thing that can happen is for the president to recover and to take over full governance, so that the natural political process can evolve, which is to carry out elections next year.”

And Chavez’s likely opponent in the election, Henrique Capriles Radonski, rightly said he wants Chavez “fit and healthy for a fair fight in front of the Venezuelan voters and political change via the ballot box.”

But what does the secretive and dishonest behavior of Chavez and his government in regard to his illness say about the way Venezuelan democracy has deteriorated under Chavez’s regime?

What kind of cancer is Chavez being treated for? What is the exact nature of the treatment? When did he undergo the operation? And most important, why was the news of his condition withheld from the Venezuelan people for so long?

When presidents of the US (and I assume Western European leaders) undergo serious medical treatment, full disclosure to the public is a matter of course. Why the vagueness and secrecy surrounding Chavez?

The best answer I can come up with is that Chavez does not consider himself a normal democratic leader, but rather one who has become absolutely indispensable to the future of Venezuela. He alone decides what Venezuelans need to know. And so he treated them as children who weren’t mature enough to handle bad news about him– until he couldn’t pretend any more.