Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What's Next for Chvez and Venezuela?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

What's Next for Chvez and Venezuela?

Article excerpt

Fireworks and tweets reverberated through Caracas early yesterday morning, alerting Venezuelans that their president had unexpectedly returned home after spending two months convalescing in a Havana hospital.

President Hugo Chvez's reported predawn arrival sparked celebrations in front of the Dr. Carlos Arvelo Military Hospital in Caracas where Chavez is said to be seeking further cancer treatment, but left many asking questions.

"The enthusiasm is relative," says Eloy Torres, a political science professor at Santa Mara University and a former administration diplomat. "Doubts remain as to how the president arrived, hidden like contraband. No one has seen him; it's a mystery."

Although news of the arrival sent the usually soft-spoken Information Minster Ernesto Villegas chanting, "He's back! He's Back!" on state television, there has not yet been any third-party confirmation that the president is indeed on Venezuelan soil. He has not been seen in public since Dec. 10, 2012.

Julio Lares, a computer technician, admits that while he was delighted to have his president home, whether or not he'll be at the helm again is entirely different matter.

"You can't put your faith into something you haven't seen," Mr. Lares says.

While the president's homecoming provides a morale boost for his followers, the uncertainty surrounding his ability to pick up where he left off as president leaves Venezuela in a state of political limbo.

Matter resolved?

For weeks, Venezuela's political opposition demanded full disclosure of Chvez's condition. According to Venezuelan law, if the president is unable to fulfill his duties, new elections are to be held. Until yesterday students were staging protests in front of the Cuban Embassy in Caracas, citing a lack of transparency by the Venezuelan government, and expressing fears that the communist island was interfering with domestic politics.

There had been mounting international pressure as well. Some believe the move to release photos of Mr. Chvez last Friday the first image shared with the public since his December cancer operation was an attempt by the administration to quell the growing questions about the missing leader. …

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