Chavez Changes Strategy, Opposition Should Be Vigilant

February 22, 2012

While many act surprised over the latest news that Chavez needs another operation, the Devil is not. This is what I had been expecting and it is happening later, rather than when doctors that I have talked to with have suggested. As a matter of fact, I was preparing to write various electoral scenarios, including a “more likely” one in which Chavez deteriorates between now and the October election. That is the scenario now.

And things will change for both the opposition and Chavez. Capriles should stay on course and focused, but there should be multiple plans B, because there are many possibilities to derail this election, if and when Chavez were to be incapacitated.

What is clear is that the medical news had to be rather bad for Chavez to change his strategy all of a sudden. The strategy from day one has been to tell the country after the fact and hide the precise diagnosis. Clearly, this has to be because if we were told what it was that was found last year in June by the doctors who operated the Venezuelan President, we would have had a very clear picture that his life span would be quite limited.

Thus, it is my belief that what was found in Cuba, which is clearly not news, as it coincides which many press reports from even a few weeks ago, including El Pais, O Globo, Veja, Robert Noriega and Bocaranda, has to be more than a simple “lesion” (injury or damage) the curious word used by the Venezuelan President.

The news simply derails the attempt to project a “healthy” Chavez. He will have to go under the knife for a complex gastrointestinal procedure that is likely to sideline him for a while. These procedures are quite difficult, recovery is not easy and Chavez has been taking many drugs in the last few months. Recall the first operation almost killed him. The expectations can’t be very good for such a dramatic change of strategy to take place.

Will he also anoint a possible successor as Vice-President? That would be a dramatic signal.

It was quite funny to have Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly and William Izarra, Minister of Information, denying the President was sick, barely hours before the President decided to give the news from Barinas. Were they out of the loop? Unlikely. More likely they were out of the “new” loop, they had not been told of the change in strategy.

With a young Capriles going around Venezuela (He spent the weekend checking out the beaches in a bathing suit, as Venezuelans vacationed during Carnival) and having obtained a strong mandate, there will be a strong contrast with a recovering Chavez, who will likely be out of the limelight for a while after being operated and whose recovery carries a lot of uncertainty.

But there are pitfalls and traps along the way. From no rules of what happens if a candidate becomes incapacitated late in the election, to the non-democratic nucleus of Chavismo, there are many dangers in the way to the election.

The opposition should continue its strategy, but should be very watchful of the pitfalls and the treachery. They have to remember that Chavismo has little democratic roots, that the Cubans and the Generals have a lot to lose, that Chavismo is expert at having the Supreme Court rule their way when things are not well defined.

And until the October 7th. election takes place, there are very few rules in place. Watch out!

56 Responses to “Chavez Changes Strategy, Opposition Should Be Vigilant”

  1. Yngvar Says:

    Chávez is a very brave man, trusting his life to the Cuban health system. Have to give him that!

    • captainccs Says:

      Chavez is a COWARD with a Capital “C.” The reason he goes to Cuba is because he knows he is more valuable to the Castro Bros alive than dead.

      Está médicamente comprobado que TRES MILLONES POR EL BUCHE dá cancer. 😉

  2. bobthebuilder Says:

    Miguel: good analysis. Chavez & Chavismo look weaker than at any time since 2002.

    Venezuela faces a very uncertain future. Not good when there are pots of oil wealth to squabble over. I fear the stakes are too high for a smooth transition.

  3. island canuck Says:

    Here’s your morning smile courtesy of our favourite comedian – Mario Silva

    Mario Silva: Bocaranda y Ravell son ladrones y narcotraficantes

    • The guy knows details of Bocaranda’s phone bill. I bet my year’s salary that nothing will happen to him. Yet some people say this is not a dictatorship. Not a cold war one, but a dictatorship it is.

      • LD Says:

        Well, he say he knows… this guy is also a liar. But for sure, privacy rights are not exactly rights those days. All the supposed e-mails and telephone calls that are regularly presented there… Is there something on MUD’s government plan about this?

  4. CharlesC Says:

    Diosdado Cabello, IS the most likely candidate for VP, I believe.
    And, with elections suspended -would take over as President if something
    happened to Chavez..

  5. Roger Says:

    Pondering the line about picking a new VP I had the thought that He is also Comandante to his most loyal followers. So he picks a new VP. Would this person also be Sub Comandante? Would his supporters poor or corrupt give that person their loyalty as they have to Chavez or would the Sub Comandante be a different person? Say a big fat corrupt general. Chavez created this dual leader thing and he can live with it or not.

  6. jp Says:

    A small correction to the post: it should be Andres Izarra. William is his dad.

  7. VJ Says:

    Eugenio G. Martínez @puzkas Responder Retwittear Favorito · Abrir
    7:15 pm. Extraoficial. Reunión de alto nivel entre las cabezas del Poder Ejecutivo y el Poder Electoral.
    Retwitteado por Alberto Ravell

  8. VJ Says:

    Watch this Youtube video of venezuelan journalist Alejandro Marcano (ex-Globovision, now working for The Voice of America) interviewing venezuelan Dr Luis Peña about HCF´s health.

    • Syd Says:

      This is insulting. Peña is not an oncologist. Perhaps because of it, he comes across as a little bit of a quack. Peña’s line of work is with stem cell rejuvenation treatments. #YOUFAILALEJANDROMARCANO.

  9. captainccs Says:

    The sooner we realize that the military is and has always been a cancer for Latin American democracies, the sooner we get rid of the military like the ticas did, the sooner we can have a better country. As long as we have democracy by the consent of the military, WE DON’T HAVE democracy.

    • Roy Says:

      Capt. CCS:

      What you suggest is not practical. Costa Rica only has no military only by virtue of a treaty with the U.S. that says that the U.S. will guarantee Costa Rica’s security. In other words, if Costa Rica is attacked by Nicaragua, the United States is obligated to send troops to defend Costa Rica. Since none of the natural threats to Costa Rica would wish to find themselves at war with the U.S., the treaty works fine.

      However, Venezuela is not Costa Rica. Neither the U.S., nor anyone else would agree to defend it (for terms that would be acceptable to Venezuela). Plus, Venezuela cannot accept such a “junior partner” status. Venezuela is a significant size country with extensive borders and complex national interests. Maintaining it’s security and promoting its interests demands that it have a military.

      What is needed is for the politicians to define the military’s mission, and for the Min. of Def. to create a small, yet efficient, military that is well-trained, well-paid, and highly professional.

      • CharlesC Says:

        Roy there is another factor- a big one. The “bolivarian force” and it’s mission.
        For example ALBA wants to “liberate” all of the Caribbean Islands and if necessary by force(-including Cuban, Venezuelan, and Haitian troops)or with propaganda _example Puerto Rica. And, all under the protective watch of
        China. Sure, we have heard it before-Jamaican rasta rap talking about liberation and liberation theology of Haiti.
        Castro calls himself “:Liberator” . so does Chavez…andHaiti of course
        they are great examples of liberation..

        • CharlesC Says:

          I forgot to mention this is racism and the moslem propaganda machine and communist propaganda are all cooperating against the “yanqui” and just say it

  10. Noel Says:

    I recall several years ago that when the government hesitated to make public the results of a referendum (I think), a well known ex-general came out and told a radio/tv station that the army would not conspire to vitiate electoral results.

    One reads much about how the armed forces have been politically purged and put under tight control, Is that true? Is that option of safeguarding the electoral process now off the table?

    • moctavio Says:

      One does not know, what one knows is that the top Generals are either pro-Cuban o getting rich and have their behind to protect. Whether below them someone will stand up or not is unclear. That referendum you mention the oppo won, but Chavez proceeded to issue decrees implementing what he wanted and then held another referendum so that he could be reelected.

      • CharlesC Says:

        “One reads much about how the armed forces have been politically purged and put under tight control, Is that true?”
        Noel, Noel-that is pure propaganda. Don’t you know that?
        As Moctavio replied-“the top Generals are either pro-Cuban o getting rich and have their behind to protect. ”
        Add it up= very high risk, I believe.
        Have you heard the chants of the military when Chavez is around?

    • megaescualidus Says:

      I think at this point the military is purged to the point where the good for nothing that there are, at different levels (obviously on top, but also down to middle levels) would just stand still (figuratively speaking) seeing how the cubans, Tupamaros, etc. (hired parallel militias, in essence same thing Gaddafi did to try to stay in power not to long ago) go around bringing the situation under control (killing civilians, if need be).

  11. megaescualidus Says:

    HC could go on and win the October elections and kick the bucket AFTER them, while becoming incapacitated (disappearing from the public light, but still being able to issue sparse but key orders) at some along the way. How long AFTER, who the hell knows? (or, should I say, who the Devil knows?).

    Or, he could kick the bucket BEFORE October.

    Either way, Chavismo would fall in disarray, quickly, I truly believe. Presidency most likely would go to a successor, but I don’t think there’s any successor that could hold “la robolucion” together.

    Either way, it will be very chaotic.

    I’d rather see him kick the bucket sooner than later (before October, ideally) not really because it’d result on a better path (for the country, for Capriles, and for the MUD), but only for the interest of time. Sooner, better than later, so perhaps (God willing) Venezuela starts getting into a better path also sooner than later.

    I’d hate to see a convalescing HC, issuing key orders to a successor, alive for who know how long (one, or two, or three more years?). This is the worst scenario I can think of.

  12. Bloody Mary Dry Says:

    Assuming elections on 10/7 and no HCF around (for whatever reason): Who could be the PSUV’s candidate? Does someone wants to share their list?

    How About Dr. Fausto who predicts changes will ocurr very soon?

    • VJ Says:

      Eugenio G. Martínez @puzkas
      Sólo entre segmento chavista. Lideres alternos a HCF. Maduro 30%; Jaua 27%; No sabe 9%; Ninguno 8%; Cabello 8%; El Aisami 5%, Aristòbulo 4%

      • moctavio Says:

        My feeling is hardcore Chavsimo would only accept a former military office. That would point to Cabello, BUT, Capriles trounced Cabello in the Miranda election.

        • Juan Cristóbal Nagel Says:

          Cabello would be a disaster for chavismo. Such an unlikable character, with such a history of corruption, will only turn off voters. Cabello wouldn’t get more than 40% against Capriles.

          • moctavio Says:

            I agree, but I think it has to be a former military and he is the best of the lot.

            • Juan Cristóbal Nagel Says:

              Well, if they want to shoot themselves in the foot, they can go right ahead. But Cabello is not going to beat Capriles. None of the military guys can beat him. In fact, I don’t see any of the others beating him, unless it’s a relative who can tap on the inevitable mourning/sorrow that is sure to come.

    • PM Says:

      It’s too early to evaluate potential successors since no one has been anointed and SO much can happen. Besides the ones mentioned by VJ, there’s also Adan Chavez(who was voted 2nd in the PSUV internal elections) But I have the impression Chavez may go for someone few expect. Rafael Ramirez comes to my mind as he is definitely powerful, has been at the vanguard of the transformation of our oil industry, and is an OK public speaker.

  13. Glenn Says:

    OT Miquel here’s an interesting article you may have seen. PDVSA on verge of bankruptcy due to China?

    • moctavio Says:

      Glenn: People use the word bankruptcy too loosely, without understanding its true meaning. A company with with EBITDA of US$ 34 billion and debt of similar amount is comfortable, very comfortable. That the Government strains PDVSA so that it can not do its job, that is a different matter. But bankruptcy, far from it.

  14. Glenn Says:

    He’s been swollen on steroids for months for a reason. I really believe the military has the plan in place and you can look forward to your own Arab Spring in the next year or two, I hope.

  15. Carolina Says:

    Here is a comment I read yesterday at Gustavo’s bolg (every blog has its trolls) but this actually scared me:


    I felt like he was a north korean commenter talking about Kim Il Sung.

    • Gold Says:

      No fear Carolina. The problem with that idea is that the majority will not “solidarise” with the dictator. I never bought the “religiou$ bond” of the People with the comandante. If he is not able to “some day” deliver the lavadora or the house or whatever it is they need, he is out of the picture. He functions on providing hope. This will not work if there is none for himself.

    • captainccs Says:


      His ideological followers and mentors left the stinking ship a long time ago. Those that are left are in it for the money only.

    • island canuck Says:

      Some of you folks have obviously not had close contact with a “true believer”.

      There are many Chavistas who do not receive handouts & have fallen into the clutches of the “cult”.

      They spend hours watching VTV & believe everything they say. Their eyes glaze over if you try & reason with them or do something silly like trying to introduce them to reality. Forget it. They are like evangelical christians – they have an answer for everything and just talk louder & faster when reality appears.

      • Deanna Says:

        Sounds like my late brother-in-law (RIP) who used to watch Chavez every moment he had. He also died of cancer a year ago.

      • Gold Says:

        Many? How many? Will they make a difference? Do you believe that they will go vote en masse for Cabello/Maduro/Jaua/Adán or Eva in order to save the Revolution? (que de todos modos “está infiltrada por la maldita derecha endógena”).

        I don’t think so.

        • Carolina Says:

          Fanatics are very dangerous, like Lina Ron was. Like this guy of the post is.

          How many are like that is hard to say that’s probably why it’s freaky to me.

          • captainccs Says:

            The sooner we realize that the military is and has always been a cancer for Latin American democracies, the sooner we get rid of the military like the ticas did, the sooner we can have a better country. As long as we have democracy by the consent of the military, WE DON’T HAVE democracy.

      • Kenp Says:

        Island Canuck I am an evangelical Christian, and take offense at your slur. I am a regular reader of this blog , literate in two languages, well read on Latin American politics. I am also well read on many subjects, I and my Evangelical friends would readily admit that we dont have an answer “to everything”. And Christians, who have been around for two thousand years, can hardly be caricatured as talking louder and faster when ” reality appears”. Last week we were all offended by the Anti-Semitism prejudice within Chavismo. How is your anti Evangelical Christian prejudice any different than the Chavismo racism?

      • m_astera Says:


        I think you are missing the point of the analogy. He wasn’t picking on evangelical Christians in particular. Regardless of how educated or informed you are, how are you with rational discussion of belief, faith, history, and facts when it is your religion being discussed? Evangelical Christians do not have any better a reputation for rationality when discussing their faith than chavistas do. The same can be said of many other faith-based belief systems.

  16. ramon Says:

    I agree that this was a change in strategy, but he was advised to do this by his new Brazilian campaign managers. His first reaction was to attack Capriles at any cost. IMHO he was told to take a different approach to be more as they say lulafied. I also believe that if it had been up to Chavez he would have continued to hide anything related to his health to any extent possible. Right now he is playing the sympathy card big time. Its the only thing that can work for him in the wake of the tsunami that was the primaries and also it would be very obvious something is wrong once he is absent for a few weeks again for surgery.

    Tricky landscape for the days ahead for both the appo and government.

    • moctavio Says:

      I dont believe the new strategy is Brazilian, what he did was visit Cuba and talk the bearded one about the upcoming operation and what he should do and the old man told him to do what he did, without saying what the ailemnt is.

  17. captainccs Says:

    With chavistas anything bad is possible. But removing Chavez from the picture can only be good. He might name a successor but it won’t be a charismatic successor and the divisions inside chavismo will simply become wider until the whole thing falls apart. “Prepare for chaos” is my advice.

  18. Albionboy Says:

    My crystal-ball say Chavez wins the election (by hook or crock) changes the constitution to put his brother and goes off to fights the cancer for 6-12 months then kicks the bucket. the shit hits the fan

  19. Stuart Says:

    I fear, if Chavez passes before October, the army will postpone the elections.

  20. Dr. Faustus Says:

    “Will he also anoint a possible successor as Vice-President? That would be a dramatic signal.”

    It will indeed. I suspect that that decision is being made today at the cabinet meeting. It would be announced by Thursday or Friday, prior to Chavez’s departure for Cuba. The winds of change are in the air……

  21. Chavistas, not just Chavez will resort to any sort of treachery, bribe, intimidation, even violence if necessary to stay in power. They know they need to lie about Chavez’s health, because they would lose the election without him

    They have too many billions of strong bolivars to lose if the opposition wins.

    We can expect a very dirty, ugly, and rigged elections, and possibly more blood shed.

  22. Miguel

    Why is everybody so certain that the election will indeed take place Oct 7? Has it been confirmed in the Gaceta?

  23. chiguire Says:

    Miguel, I was not aware that Chavez was almost killed during his first surgery. Is this rumor or confirmed fact?

    • POL47 Says:

      Perhaps everyones wishes will come true this time around.

      • moctavio Says:

        He was in intensive care for four days. You are only placed there when your life is in danger.

      • Bruni Says:

        This is a very silly comment: the worst thing that can happen to Venezuela at this time is the death of Chávez.

        If Chávez dies we will enter in a twilight political zone from which nobody knows what would be the consequences for the country. This is what Miguel’s article states.

        Pray for Chávez to survive and be clearly beaten by Capriles on October 7.

        • megaescualidus Says:


          I don’t agree.

          Should HC be healthy for the October elections, I think it is extremely unlikely he will “accept” (willingly, or unwillingly) a hypothetical Capriles victory, even if “on paper” Capriles wins by a healthy margin (> 10% of cast votes).

          And, what if, on the other hand, HC lasts longer, much longer after October, healthy, or somewhat healthy, to the point where he’s still able to issue orders (thru a successor or otherwise)? In this scenario they (HC, the PSUV, los cubanos, la guerrilla, etc.) would be able to plan and entrench themselves better to keep the status quo for as long as possible.

          I think (as if it were under anyone’s control) the sooner HC is out (literally) the better, for the country. Will it be chaotic? You bet it will be. But, I think it will be very chaotic regardless of when it happens, now or later.

  24. ErneX Says:

    I’ve been hearing that the elections haven’t been called yet, no gaceta oficial or anything. Supposedly that will happen on March. We’ll see.

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