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CARACAS, Saturday January 26, 2013 | Update
 
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CHÁVEZ'S HEALTH | Analysis by Reuters

Venezuelan gov't arouses old ghosts in Chávez's absence

From threats of expropriation to sanctions meted out to companies, up to the claims of an assassination plot emerged lately from the socialist government led by Vice-President Nicolás Maduro

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been for more than 40 days without showing up on the media (Handout photo)
EL UNIVERSAL
Saturday January 26, 2013  12:00 AM
The Venezuelan government has started to augment the usual foes, an action regarded by many as an old trick to maintain the people's support and divert the concern about the health condition of missing President Hugo Chávez.

From threats of expropriation to sanctions meted out to companies, up to the claims of an assassination plot emerged lately from the socialist government led by Vice-President Nicolás Maduro. Meanwhile a silent President Hugo Chávez is convalescent in Cuba from his fourth surgery against a cancer he has suffered for one and a half year, Reuters reported.

"We must repeat it, ratify it; we need to work hard, because we are confronting a monster," Maduro affirmed last week in a rally where he blasted the Venezuelan opposition and the US Empire incarnated in the global right wing.

Maduro, Chávez's heir apparent, lacks the charm of the Venezuelan leader. Nevertheless, he has endeavored to get closer to other currents of a heterogeneous United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), encompassing military officers and businesspersons. To the mind of analysts, only Chávez manages to bind such mixture.

In order to dispel rumors of rivalry, another strongman inside the ruling party, Lieutenant and Speaker of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, has hugged Maduro in quite a few events since Chávez departed for Havana on December 10.

Exciting the idea of the enemy of the "Bolivarian revolution" lying in wait, Maduro, an ex bus driver, said recently that the government found some cells infiltrated into the country to kill him and Cabello. No further details were provided.

"Pay attention to their wording, the demeaning wording of an oligarchy that will never understand who we are (...) They say that the petty lieutenant and the bus driver should be finished off," the vice-president fired.

Chávez won the presidential election of October 7, 2012 to extend his term in office to almost two decades. However, he has not been able to attend his inauguration due to his illness. Many a time in the past, the reelected president would argue assassination plots without producing evidence.

"It is a red smoke canister for the people to talk about assassination and try to cover the ongoing crisis of governance in the country," opposition deputy Abelardo Díaz reasoned.

In a recent moving speech, Maduro also lambasted businesspersons, charging them with sparking "a psychological war to demoralize and mislead out people."

A necessary evil

Private TV news channel Globovisión, a strong critic of the current government, has been counted among the oldest and fiercest rivals of Chávez. The government has fingered its owners even for hoarding of vehicles.

In the latest quarrel, the National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) commenced an administrative action against the TV channel after senior government authorities accused it of violating the Constitution due to "contempt of laws and legitimacy of the government."

In the event of being found guilty, the TV channel is likely to go off the air up to 48 hours.

"Every time the government is at the crossroads; every time the government faces a conundrum, it just tries to censor us and divert the attention," Carlos Alberto Zuloaga, the Globovisión Executive Vice-President, maintained.

Venezuelans confront day-by-day troubles, such as fitful supply of bare essentials, soaring inflation and widespread crime, in addition to the tiny snippets of official information about Chávez's health condition.

"Right now, we have no president and nobody talks about it; they talk about the attempts at killing Maduro and anything else, yet they do not say how Chávez is doing. Not even medical reports are supplied," lamented Lizbeth Sandoval, a 27-year-old clerk in the private sector.

With intent to counter people's concern about shortage, Maduro has encouraged monitoring agencies to inspect grocery stores, manufacturing plants and production sites in an effort to make the elusive necessities return to the shelves instead of remaining in the hands of "hoarders."

Nevertheless, many a time the goods are missing even from the network of food suppliers incorporated by the government to secure food supply with the output from state-run industries.

One of the inspections led by Maduro seized bottler Pepsi more than 9,000 tons of sugar, the starting material of sodas.

The company termed the seizure as "illicit" because "it was refined sugar for industrial purposes, raw material for as few as 27 days of production," and part of a purchase from Guatemala with the government permission.

"Replacing a leader who grasps the power with iron fist has two potential ways: negotiation or radicalization," analyst Luis Vicente León wrote.  "Assuming that Maduro is less strong than Chávez, the risk of a more radical control by him is high," he added.

A survey of pollster Hinterlaces completed at the end of January revealed that 26% of Chávez's followers think that Chávez's absence has emotionally affected them.

The government has staged two demonstrations in support of Chávez whereas the leader, usually omnipresent on TV, keeps completely silent.

"Whenever people feel that either Chávez or the process is in jeopardy, they go out to the street to advocate them," pronounced a public servant at Miraflores presidential palace.

Translated by Conchita Delgado
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The rock of discord

A shipment of over 30,000 tons of phosphate arrived at Puerto Cabello port in late July on board the Shi Long Ling, a Chinese-flagged vessel that began its long journey in northern Africa. The cargo boat docked on July 26 after traveling more than 3,200 nautical miles. Undoubtedly, this would just be considered one in many cargo ships crisscrossing the oceans if it were not for the fact that Venezuela has denounced Western Sahara occupation by Morocco and yet purchases the territory's natural resource products from the occupying power.

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