Venezuela’s Maduro Will Visit Ailing Chavez in Cuba TodayCharlie Devereux and Corina Pons
Venezuela’s Vice President Nicolas Maduro said he will travel to Cuba today to receive instructions from cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez on a regional summit taking place this week.
Maduro said he would depart for Havana as soon as he finished speaking at a political rally today in Caracas to commemorate the downfall of former dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in 1958. He last visited Chavez on the communist island a week ago and will head to Chile later this week for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit.
Thousands of supporters dressed in the red shirts of Chavez’s “21st century revolution” gathered in western Caracas in a show of allegiance to their 58-year-old leader, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since stepping off a plane last month in Havana to undergo his fourth cancer-related operation. Chavez’s fragile health prevented him from attending his own swearing-in ceremony for a new term Jan. 10 after the Dec. 11 operation caused a lung infection and hemorrhaging.
“Chavez has managed to climb back up the crest of the hill in his post-operative stage,” Maduro said. “He is advancing on a path to a new stage. The comandante will live.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales said yesterday Chavez is doing physiotherapy in order to return to Venezuela. Still, no date has yet been set for him to land in Caracas as he continues to face a “tough, complex health battle,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said yesterday.
Before traveling to Cuba, Chavez anointed Maduro as his successor, urging Venezuelans to vote for the 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader should he die or step down because of his health.
Maduro, who has been running affairs in Chavez’s absence, said the Venezuelan opposition is trying to sew discord between him and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.
He said authorities uncovered a plot to assassinate him and Cabello and warned the government will come down with a “hard hand on anyone who violates the constitution and the country’s peace.”
Should Chavez die or step down before completing a third six-year term, the constitution states elections must be held within 30 days.
Opposition parties are ready for elections and will choose a presidential candidate by consensus, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, the head of the opposition alliance known as the Democratic Unity Table, said at a smaller rally in eastern Caracas.
The recent news regarding Chavez’s health has raised hopes among his supporters that Chavez may be able to retake the helm of the country he’s ruled for 14 years. Pedro Castro, a 36-year-old computer technician said he attended the pro-Chavez rally to show support for Chavez and his government.
Chavez’s health “is in good hands,” Castro said. “He’s coming back reloaded. Chavez will be around for a while.”