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Can There Be Chavismo Without Chávez?

The Venezuelan President's illness raises questions about succession

It’s a measure of the passions Hugo Chávez inspires that news of his cancer affected both the markets and his opponents so strongly. The belief that a weakened Chávez could lose in elections next year, and that a new regime might reverse economic policies that have fueled the fastest inflation rate in the Americas, touched off rallies in Venezuelan bonds in midsummer, when his illness was first revealed, and September, when rumors started anew about Chávez’s health. The post-Chávez era, however, could also mean political instability.

In late September, Chávez threw a baseball around with some of his ministers in a bid to counteract reports in a Miami newspaper that he had been hospitalized again. In mid-October he danced to hip-hop to celebrate a new political alliance. The 57-year-old former paratrooper says he’s on the mend after the removal of a “baseball-sized tumor” from his pelvic area. The fact that he refuses to reveal a diagnosis or prognosis continues to generate speculation.