Hugo Chavez, the rotund Communist leader of Venezuela, made the unofficial “death watch” list after close aides and supporters warned Venezuelans he may not be fit to attend his own swearing-in still a month away.
Wednesday, Minister Ernesto Villegas, charged with dispensing carefully edited medical information about the newly elected president, said he was in "stable condition" and staying with close relatives in Havana. Villegas, reading from a prepared statement, said the government invites people to "accompany President Chavez in this new test with their prayers."
Likely translation: Chavez’s surgery did not go well and no one knows if or when he may recover – only that it won’t happen anytime soon.
Even starker, Villegas posted a message on a government website that says if Chavez doesn't make it, "our people should be prepared to understand it." Translation: This message is being posted to prepare the country for the death of its President.
On the website, Villegas spoke of the "delicateness of the current moment and the days to come" and requested Venezuelans to look upon Chavez's as their sick father. "We have a sick father, in a delicate situation after four surgeries in a year and a half."
Solidifying Chavez’s death watch status Vice President Nicolas Maduro appeared on state television in grim form to say Chavez faced a "complex and hard" process after his latest surgery.
Maduro attempted to rally party loyalists in case their “sick father” dies. "We're more united than ever," said Maduro, who was flanked by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, both key members of Chavez's inner circle. "We're united in loyalty to Chavez."
Fellow communist and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello also sent Chavez’s "children" a mixed message.
Cabello, who claims he was with Chavez for the operation in Cuba, called the president "invincible" but said "that man who is in Havana ... is fighting a battle for his life."
Chavez and his inner circle are devout communists with close ties to Cuba’s Fidel Castro. The communists have largely nationalized Venezuela.
Maduro has been carefully groomed to take over should Chavez die.
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