Monday, October 17, 2011

Hugo Chavez Has Less than Two Years to Live: Doctor

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has a life expectancy of less than two years, according to a doctor who reportedly treated the president on a number of occasions in the past, and treats his family. In an interview with Mexico’s Milenio Semanal magazine, surgeon Salvador Navarrete Aulestia said that Chavez is suffering from an highly aggressive tumor located in the pelvic region, which is not prostate cancer as some have speculated. According to the Navarrete, this explains Chavez’s decision to move the elections forward to October 2012 from the expected date of December.

The interview appears to be one of the most credible of recent reports on the health of the ailing president, with a named source giving a detailed assessment of Chavez’s condition, which he claims to be doing in the interests of the public. However, Navarrete does not personally treat Chavez, and seemingly has not done so since soon after the 2002 coup attempt, when he says that the president switched to a team of Cuban doctors. His diagnosis seems to have been pieced together through details gleaned from Chavez’s family, his assessment of publicly available information, and the opinion of other Venezuelan doctors who have treated Chavez in the past.

Navarrete states that Chavez underwent dialysis on between September 25 and 26 because his kidneys were having problems processing his medication, and that a dialysis machine was taken to the Miraflores presidential palace. This appears to support reports in Miami-based newspaper El Nuevo Herald on September 29, which said that the president had been admitted to hospital with kidney failure, something which was strongly denied by the government.
We think that the prognosis of President Chavez is not good. And when I say that the prognosis is not good, it means that his life expectancy could be up to two years.

The information I have from the family is that he has a sarcoma, a highly agressive tumor with a very poor prognosis, and I am almost sure that this is the reality.
The doctor also discusses Chavez’s struggle with manic depression, and says that he only sleeps for three or four hours a day. He says that those who have treated Chavez agree that you can’t say anything to the president about his health, as he doesn’t listen to anyone. 

The socalist leader left for Cuba on Sunday, in a trip, announced last week, to undergo further health tests. He said that he hoped to return with “good news for the country,” and that he expected the tests would confirm there were no more malignant cells in his body.

Business Week asks whether there can be “Chavismo without Chavez.” It looks at likely successors to the president, including Foreign Minister Nicholas Maduro, and quotes one expert as saying that:
President Chavez sets the agenda not only for the government but also for the opposition. His death would lead to a vacuum of power, more political instability … and a political crisis.

News Briefs

  • The New York Times examines Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s attempts to secure his legacy, with attempts to introduce legislation to ensure that the militarized strategy he has pursued against drug cartels will continue after his presidency ends in December 2012. The newspaper notes that the president does not claim he has made Mexico safer, with 40,000 dead in drug violence during his five years in power, but only that if he had not acted, it would have been more dangerous. In a discussion of what he could have done differently, Calderon told the paper that it would have been good to have done more, and earlier, to strengthen local and state police forces which suffer from corruption and incompetence. Excerpts from the interview here.
  • The Washington Post looks at Texas Governor Rick Perry’s hardline approach to security on the Mexican border, where it says he has deployed a “small army” in a “secretive, military-style campaign,” spending $400 million since 2008 on “Operation Border Star.” The newspaper describes the border policy of the Republican presidential hopeful as being characterized by “a lot of swagger, with mixed results.” As noted in Thursday’s post, Perry has offered strong words on border security, suggesting he would support the idea of sending U.S. troops into Mexico.
  • The UN has voted to reduce the number of peacekeepers in Haiti, cutting the force by 2,750 down to around 10,600, back to the number present before the January 2010 earthquake, and to extend the mandate by another year. The force has faced criticism following a cholera outbreak blamed on Nepalese troops, and the alleged rape of a young man by Uruguayan troops. Meanwhile, the Washington Post published an editorial arguing against new President Michael Martelly’s plans to rebuild the national army, which was dismantled in 1995 after the end of the military regime, amid accusations of abuses against civilians, and involvement in drug trafficking.
  • Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported that four former members of that country’s Special Forces have allegedly been training the Zetas drug gang, based in Mexico. In other news on the group, which is perhaps the country’s most violent trafficking organization, Mexico’s army rescued 61 people who were reportedly being held captive and forced to work for the Zetas in the border state of Coahuila.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales has suffered another setback, with more than 60 percent of voters reportedly turning in invalid voting papers in an election for judicial officials. The vote, held Sunday, came days after police used heavy-handed tactics against indigenous protesters marching against the construction of a road through an Amazon reserve, sparking outrage amongst many Bolivians. Reuters explained before the election that the vote was “crucial” to the president, and is being seen as a referendum on his leadership. 
  • The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady criticizes the leadership of Argentina’s Kirchners, arguing that since they came to power in 2003, their efforts in the name of social justice have made the country poorer, less equal, and more unjust. President Cristina Kirchner, widow of former President Nestor, is likely to win another term, looking set to triumph in the first round of elections on October 23.
  • Laura Pollan, leader of the Cuban Ladies in White protest movement, has died at the age of 63. She co-founded the group in 2003 with the wives and relatives of political prisoners who, like her husband, had been jailed for criticizing the regime. The women began to carry out silent marches through the streets of Havana every Sunday after mass, dressed all in white. On Sunday, to commemorate Pollan’s death, the group reportedly allowed men to march alongside them for the first time. More from the Washington PostNYTMiami Herald.
  • In more news on Chavez’s Venezuela, the Wall Street Journal reports on that country’s diaspora, which it says is booming due to a stuttering economy and soaring levels of violent crime. The number of Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, to 215,000, while the number in Spain rose five-fold. According to the WSJ, some are now thinking of returning, as the chance of Chavez leaving power next year has begun to look more likely. However, the newspaper does not blame the situation entirely on the current leader, dating the beginning of the exodus to the economic crisis of 1983.
  • Colombian weekly Semana reports that 1,000 people were set to march in Bogota last week to demand justice for dead and disappeared members of the Patriotic Union political party. The leftist party, founded as part of peace negotiations with the FARC rebel group in the 1980s, suffered a wave of attacks that claimed the lives of hundreds of its members, from Congress representatives to local activists.
  • The LA Times has praise for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who it says has managed to fill the shoes of immensely popular predecessor “Lula” Da Silva. The report notes her handling of a series of corruption scandals, in which she lost several ministers amid allegations of misconduct, her deft foreign policy, and the continuing economic boom which is lifting many people out of poverty in that country.

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