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CARACAS, Monday January 21, 2013 | Update
 
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CHÁVEZ'S HEALTH

Forty-four days of presidential silence in Venezuela

Venezuelans have not listened to or seen President Hugo Chávez since December 8. Information about the president have been provided by third parties only

The Venezuelan president set off for Cuba on December 9 at dawn to undergo his fourth cancer surgery (Photo: AP)
EL UNIVERSAL
Monday January 21, 2013  12:43 PM
There is no doubt. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is a mass media man. Ever since his appearance on television in 1992 after his failed coup d'état against President Carlos Andrés Pérez -which catapulted him to the political arena, Chávez has relied on the mass media for his political purposes.

Since he became president early on February 2, 1999, Chávez has used the media for different purposes, from announcing changes in the name of public institutions to dismissing and appointing senior officials. Chávez has lectured and admonished his officials live on TV. He even dared to explain how he made it through to overcome "diarrhea" during the opening of a public work. He became the Latin American president with more followers in Twitter and chose to be his own spokesperson to inform about his illness. However, Venezuelans have not listened to or seen Chávez for 44 days, which has ignited rumors about the president's incapacity to fulfill his constitutional duties.

Last December 8, on a mandatory nationwide radio and television broadcast, the Venezuelan president announced that he had to undergo another surgery due to the reemergence of malignant cells in the same area where he had been diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Only third parties have provided information about the president since then.

A few hours after the announcement, President Chávez left for Havana, Cuba, to undergo his fourth surgery, scheduled for December 11. Since the surgery, 27 official statements have been released to inform about the president's health condition. Most of them have been read out by Communication and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas and some others by Vice-President Nicolás Maduro. Chávez's son-in-law Jorge Arreaza, who is also the Minister of Science and Technology, has been in Cuba and has also reported about Chávez's health condition. None of the reports has explained the kind of surgery that the president underwent. 

Chávez, who won his reelection on October 7, 2012, was expected to be sworn-in on January 10. On January 8, in a regular session, the Congress extended indefinitely the permission for Chávez to remain abroad although the president did not request it. On that very same date, Congress Speaker Diosdado Cabello read out a letter written by the vice-president, stating that President Chávez's recovery would extend after January 10. Therefore, he would not be able to take his oath on January 10 before Congress and would do it before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice pursuant to the Constitution of Venezuela, Article 231.  

On January 9, the top court reaffirmed that the Government and all its officials may continue in power on the grounds of administrative continuity. The court did not set a date for Chávez's swearing-in, though.

On January 15, the vice-president delivered the Government's report for fiscal year 2012. All of a sudden, the vice-president said that President Chávez had appointed Elías Jaua as the new Foreign Affairs Minister. Later on, Maduro said that the appointment of the foreign minister had been signed by President Chávez himself.  

mdacorte@eluniversal.com

Translated by Jhean Cabrera
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