Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Hugo Chávez Convalesces in Cuba, as Problems Mount at Home

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on June 24, 2011

by Roque Planas for Americas Society / Council of the Americas, June 23rd, 2011.

It may be the first time in years that the political opposition has demanded that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez speak. Since undergoing emergency surgery for a pelvic abscess on June 10 during a state visit to Cuba, the normally omnipresent Chávez, 56, has hardly appeared on television or radio, with the exception of a phone interview with the Venezuelan state press and the release of photographs of him with the Castro brothers, diffused by Cuban state media. The social media-savvy leader who normally posts at least one upbeat, exclamation-pointed tweet to his 1.6 million followers per day has not updated his Twitter account since June 4. His brother Adán, who just returned from visiting the Venezuelan president in Havana, told state television Wednesday Hugo Chávez will return in 10 to 12 days. Despite Chávez’s prolonged absence, Vice President Elías Jaua says there’s no need to make him acting president, and Chávez continues to sign decrees from a Cuba.

Problems mount while Chávez convalesces. Venezuela’s inflation stands at 23 percent and, last week, Energy Minister Alí Rodríguez announced that Venezuela would begin rationing energy in several as-yet-unnamed provinces due to recurrent blackouts. Perhaps most importantly, the Venezuelan government has yet to retake control of El Rodeo prison complex in the state of Miranda, which erupted into violence June 12 between opposing gangs, killing 19 people and wounding 20 more. In Chávez’s absence, the Venezuelan government sent some 4,000 National Guard troops to restore order, but the violence has yet to stop. In the wake of the riot, opposition legislators in the National Assembly called for an investigation into corruption, as well as weapons- and drug-trafficking in Venezuela’s prisons. Chávez supporters, who hold a majority in the unicameral legislature, said Wednesday they would launch an official investigation into what they said was slanted news coverage of the riot.  (continue reading… )

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