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Entries in Hugo Chavez (24)

Friday
Mar082013

Hugo Chavez's Body to Remain on Public Display After Funeral

JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- As world leaders, mainly from Latin America and the Caribbean, are gathering in Caracas ahead of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's funeral Friday, large crowds of mourners coming to pay their respects have assembled in the capital city where he is lying in state.  On Thursday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez, who died Tuesday after battling cancer, will remain on display permanently.

Now the country's acting president, Nicolas Maduro said the deceased president will be embalmed and permanently displayed "like Lenin" after Friday's funeral, referring to Soviet Premier Vladimir Lenin, whose embalmed body has been on public display in Moscow since his death in 1924. Maduro added that after lying in state for at least another seven days, Chavez's body will go on display in a glass casket at the Museum of the Revolution so that "his people will always have him."

According to BBC News, more than 2 million mourners, many of them waiting for hours, have already come to view Chavez's body.

Friday's state funeral, attended by heads of government, is expected to begin around 9 a.m. ET.  

The United States is sending a delegation to the funeral, but no senior officials from the administration will be in attendance. The State Department has confirmed that the U.S. delegation to the funeral will include former U.S. Reps. William Delahunt, D-Mass., and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., as well as U.S. Embassy Caracas Chargé d'Affaires James Derham.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Hugo Chavez's Funeral Set for Friday

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Venezuela says a state funeral for its late president, Hugo Chavez, will be held on Friday.

The country's foreign minister, Elias Jaua, declared seven days of mourning and ordered all schools closed until next Monday.  Jaua says the country is in "total normality" in the wake of Chavez's death.

According to Jaua, a funeral procession will carry the late president’s body to the Military Academy in Caracas on Wednesday.  It will remain there until Friday to allow for his supporters to pay their respects.  He called on Chavez supporters to wear clothes in the three colors of the Venezuelan flag to honor the late leader.

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Tuesday that Chavez, the South American country's fiery and controversial socialist president who came to power on a wave of popular sentiment and befriended some of the world's most notorious dictators, had died at the age of 58.

Maduro is now the country’s interim president until new elections can be scheduled within 30 days.

Venezuelan government officials said on Monday that Chavez had developed a severe respiratory infection following cancer surgery, and that his condition was very delicate.  Chavez recently returned to Venezuela after two months of cancer treatment in Cuba and was being cared for in a military hospital.

Maduro declared on state television that a “scientific commission” would look into Chavez’s death and the likelihood that his “historical enemies” had somehow been responsible for his disease, reported El Diario.  Many observers interpret that “historical enemy” as being the United States.  

“An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chavez’s illness is absurd, and we definitely reject it,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said on Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

WATCH: Barbara Walters’ Rare Interview with Hugo Chavez

Donna Svennevik/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In a rare interview, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sat down with ABC News’ Barbara Walters in 2007 to discuss his ire for President George W. Bush, his reputation and his lonely personal life.

The interview was the first time any American journalist interviewed Chavez since he called President Bush “the devil” in a 2006 speech before the U.N. General Assembly.

“He himself is very welcoming.  He had just called George Bush the devil, which he repeated,” Walters recalled on Tuesday, shortly after the news of Chavez’s death was announced.  “Mostly, it was very hard to feel that this man who was so welcoming and warm and friendly was also the man who had just called the president of the United States the devil.  He also reminded us of how much oil Venezuela was supplying to the United States and there was an implied threat that this could stop.”

The controversial leader also revealed glimpses of a more vulnerable side.

“[He] talked about how alone his life was, that he had no relationships and so forth because his whole life was his work and trying to help his country and everything that  he had done,” she said.  “But there was such a divide then in the country and so much danger, just walking the streets.”

Walters said the trip was one of the few where she had to have bodyguards because the network felt the conditions in Caracas, Venezuela, were too dangerous.

“The people who had money, who had property, were living behind great fences and gates,” she said.  “The poor people were happy because he was able to deliver to them running water and toilets."

“He is far more charming when you meet  him than when you hear him talking,” Walters said.  “He had a radio show that was on every night, in which he was very bombastic, but he also told jokes.  His closest friend was Fidel Castro, whom he talked back and forth with on the radio.  They were great buddies.”

When Walters asked Chavez about the name-calling, he did not back down.

“Yes, I call him a devil in the United Nations,” he said.  “That’s true.  Another time, I said that he was a donkey just because I think that he is very ignorant … about the things that are actually happening in Latin America and the world."

“I don’t think he was worried about how he was perceived in this country,” Walters said.  “There was a swagger about him in and a bravado about him at the same time.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Dead at 58

Gregorio Marrero/LatinContent/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has died, the country's Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday.
 
Venezuelan government officials said Monday that Chavez had developed a severe respiratory infection following cancer surgery, and that his condition was very delicate.
 
Chavez recently returned to Venezuela after two months of cancer treatment in Cuba and was being cared for in a military hospital.
 
A self-described champion of the poor who first tried to overturn Venezuela's powerful elites in a failed 1992 coup, Chavez was democratically elected in 1998, with huge support from the country's poor.

During his time in office, he became one of Latin America's most well-known and polarizing figures. A constant thorn in the side of the United States, he commanded headlines in newspapers around the world. A populist who suppressed free speech, he remained immensely popular among his country's poor.

From the time he took office in 1999, Chavez held onto power through tightly controlling the media and through a series of populist elections and referenda, including one that allowed him to seek a limitless number of terms.

Chavez, whose public appearances diminished in months, received his first surgery and chemotherapy treatment for cancer in Cuba in 2011. He returned to Cuba, a guest of that country's ailing socialist leader Fidel Castro, for treatment and surgery in February 2012.

Chavez announced on Dec. 8 on state television that he would travel back to Cuba to undergo surgery since his pelvic cancer had "returned."

Despite his ailing health, Chavez was reelected last year.

The details of Chavez's medical status have long been controversial.  For months rumors swirled about the ailing president's health, but the government would only recently reveal information about Chavez's condition following his fourth cancer-related surgery in 19 months.  Over the weekend, Vice President Maduro, who has led the government in Chavez's absence, said the president was still undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
 
While most of his countrymen believed the socialist leader would eventually return to power (six in 10, according to polling company Datanalisis), some (almost three percent) thought in recent months that Chavez was already dead, with protesters calling for the full details of his condition. Chavez hadn’t been seen in public since last December.
 
Born into a working class family, Hugo Chavez cut his own path in life. He became a career military officer and later, dissatisfied with a political system he viewed as corrupt and undemocratic, he entered politics.

Over the years of his presidency, Chavez introduced a new constitution that increased rights for marginalized groups. He also brought in a program for land reform and nationalized various key industries.
 
Chavez refused to play ball with the U.S., often criticizing American foreign policy and aligning himself with the governments of Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, as well as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His greatest ire, however, was saved for the United States, particularly former President George W. Bush.

He called Bush a "liar," "coward," "murderer" and "donkey." In a 2006 speech before the UN General Assembly, he called the president "the devil."

"I think I'm just saying what many people would like to tell him. I said he was a donkey because, I think, he's very ignorant about what is actually happening in Latin America and the world," Chavez told ABC's Barbara Walters in a 2007 interview.

Despite promises that he would clean the country of corruption, his administration was rife with corruption. He and his government were routinely criticized for human rights abuses, particularly restricting freedom of the press.
 
The country will likely hold general elections soon.  The law requires that they take place within 30 days.
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar022013

Venezuelan VP Says Chavez Undergoing Chemotherapy 

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- Speaking after a Mass for President Hugo Chavez on Friday, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro shed some light on Chavez' health.

Maduro told reporters that Chavez is battling for his life, according to the BBC. Maduro added that the president was undergoing "complementary treatments" in the form of chemotherapy.

Speculation had mounted regarding the health of the Venezuelan president, but few specifics had been given.

Chavez has not been seen in public since he had surgery in Cuba in December for an unspecified cancer that is believed to be in his pelvic region. There were reports that Chavez suffered from a severe respiratory infection following his treatment in Cuba.

Maduro has been selected by Chavez as his preferred successor. According to the BBC, if the president is not able to return to office, Venezuela is constitutionally required to hold an election within 30 days.

The 58-year-old president, who won re-election in October, has held that office for 14 years. Chavez had previously reported undergoing radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar012013

Wide Uncertainty in Venezuela About Hugo Chavez

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- As rumors continue to fly about the health of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, most of his countrymen still believe the socialist leader will eventually return to power.

The government is not revealing the condition of Chavez following his fourth cancer-related surgery in 19 months.  Some believe the 58-year-old president is incapacitated or might already be dead.

Chavez recently returned to Venezuela after two months in Cuba and is being cared for in a military hospital.  Meanwhile, polling company Datanalisis found that close to six in ten Venezuelans believe Chavez will overcome his disease, while 27 percent say that he won’t.  Almost 3 percent contend Chavez is dead.

There might be good reason to think that Venezuela exists in a power vacuum because Chavez hasn’t been seen in public since last December and the tweets sent on his account could have been written by his aides.

If Chavez does die, the country will have to hold general elections within 30 days.  Currently, Vice President Nicolas Maduro heads the government in Chavez’s absence.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb182013

Hugo Chavez Returns to Venezuela. What Happens Next?

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Hugo Chávez returned to Venezuela in the early hours of Monday morning, two months after heading to Cuba for cancer surgery.

There are still no images of Chávez's return. But according to government officials, the president arrived around 2:30 a.m. local time on a private flight, and was immediately taken to a military hospital in Caracas. A message published on Chávez's personal Twitter account at 3:42 a.m. confirms this.

"We have arrived in Venezuela once again. Thank you god, thank you my beloved people. We will continue treatment here," says the tweet, which is supposedly written by Chávez himself.

So is this the start of a surprise comeback for the cancer-stricken socialist leader?

Probably not, says Jose Marquina, a Florida-based Venezuelan doctor who claims to get inside info on Chávez's closely guarded health status.

Marquina contends that Chávez's cancer, for which he has had four operations in the past 18 months, has reached a point of no return, and is slowly spreading from his pelvic area into vital organs like the pancreas and the lungs.

"There was no sense for him to be in Cuba, when there are no more treatments that can be offered," Marquina tweeted in Spanish on Monday morning. "At this point of the disease there are no more curative treatments, only palliative ones," the doctor also wrote on his Twitter account.

According to Marquina, Chávez has only two to three months left to live, and could have possibly returned home to spend time with friends and relatives.

Marquina has previously been right about the president's health problems. In January, for example, Marquina said that Chávez was suffering a respiratory infection, a couple days before the Venezuelan government acknowledged this same problem in a public statement.

So what happens next in Venezuela?

One interesting development that could take place is that the Supreme Court formally swears Chávez into his fourth term in office, as the Venezuelan leader missed his swearing in ceremony on January 10.

Such a ceremony would quiet legal challenges from opposition groups, which have been arguing for weeks that there is a power vacuum in the country, and new elections must be held, as Chávez was not officially sworn into his fourth term.

However, if doctor Marquina is right about Chávez's short life expectancy, new elections will have to be held anyway after Chávez dies, or if his frail health condition leads him to retire from office.

According to the Venezuelan constitution, elections have to be "called for" within 30 days of a president´s death or retirement, but the rules are not so clear as to when elections actually have to take place.

Political analysts in Venezuela say that Vice President Nicolas Maduro, a close Chávez ally, is the favorite to win. But this could change if economic problems continue to plague the country and force the government to cut back on social programs. If you consider that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles lost by ten points to Chávez in the October presidential elections, and that Maduro is not as well liked or as charismatic as Chávez, the next election could be pretty close.

Of course there is also the possibility that Chávez will make a surprising recovery and will once again be healthy enough to appear in public, and serve out his presidential term, which runs through 2018.

But chances are slim with even government officials saying last week that his condition is delicate, difficult, and that he is "fighting for his life."

For the moment however, Chávez's surprise comeback provides a glimmer of hope to supporters, who welcomed news of his arrival with fireworks, and even gathered in front of the military hospital where Chávez is staying in Caracas.

Chávez's return also takes away some attention from the daily problems that have beset his government, like soaring crime rates and serious food shortages.

Just last week, the Venezuelan government was also forced to devalue the national currency, the Bolivar, by 30 percent of its value relative to the U.S. dollar. This move was necessary in order for the national oil company PDVSA to get more local cash for each barrel of oil it sells, money which can then be diverted to social programs. But devaluation is also expected to drive up the country´s steep inflation rate, it makes crucial food imports more expensive, and it also means that people´s savings are now worth less. Chávez has returned to Venezuela in the middle of difficult times.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan102013

Venezuela After Hugo Chavez: What's Next?

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(CARACAS, Venezuela) -- As Venezuelans woke up Thursday morning, hours before Hugo Chavez was supposed to be sworn in for his third term as president, there was as much evidence that the father of the nation's "Bolivarian Revolution" is alive as that he is dead.

Chavez, 58, has not been seen or heard from since leaving the country for Cuba a month ago on Thursday.  Surgeons at Havana's Cimeq hospital operated on him the next day for at least the third time in 18 months, a span in which he had also undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment for a mysterious cancer than began in his pelvic region.

Now, his supporters will fill the streets for an unofficial inauguration in absentia, a rally to affirm Chavez as their leader even as his ruling legacy is thrown into doubt by illness and a dubious reading of Venezuelan law.

The letter from Havana asking that the official ceremonies be delayed was not signed by Chavez, but by his vice president and would-be successor, Nicolas Maduro.  In Caracas, another top lieutenant of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, with the backing of the National Assembly, accepted the request and moved to put off the occasion indefinitely.

Their decision defied Articles 231, 233 and 234 of the Venezuelan constitution, which require the president be sworn in on Jan. 10 -- if not before legislators, then in the presence of the Supreme Court -- unless he is declared incapacitated or "absent."

In those cases, the vice president or leader of the National Assembly would temporarily fill the position and the clock would start counting down to new elections.  The current Supreme Court, which is stocked with Chavez appointees, has rejected appeals to intervene.

"Right now, we cannot say when, how or where the president will be sworn in," Supreme Court Chief Judge Luisa Morales said at a news conference Wednesday, neatly summing up the state of play right now in Caracas.

With Chavez gone, confusion reigns and a question threatens to eat up the firmament: What's next?

"Chavismo sin Chávez no existe (Chavismo without Chavez does not exist)," Elias Jaua, his former vice president, said a year ago when concerns about the president's health cast a pall on his re-election campaign.  Jaua also stated that "no one in the ranks of the revolution" had ever discussed the possibility of succession.

Their actions in the past 48 hours would indicate that Jaua was not parrying or keeping a hard line, but that there is, indeed, no real plan in place for when Chavez dies.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan092013

Ailing President Chavez Will Not Attend Inauguration Thursday 

RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won't be taking the oath for a fourth term in office on Thursday, his government officials have said.  The Venezuelan National Assembly approved the ailing president's request to postpone his inauguration, BBC News reports.

Mystery has lingered around the exact status of his condition in recent weeks.  President Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11 for what the government of Venezuela described as a severe lung infection. He has not been seen in public since his operation.

According to several news sources, Chavez, who has undergone four cancer-related surgeries since June 2011, was put in an induced coma because of weak vital signs and remains on life support.

Meanwhile, family members of the socialist president maintain that Chavez is in stable condition and urged supporters not to believe any rumors.

While lawmakers voted to allow Chavez as much recovery time as he needs, Venezuela's opposition is calling the Supreme Court to rule on what steps to take in the president's absence at the inauguration, BBC reports.  Government officials say the ceremony is just a formality.

It is the opposition's hope, according to BBC, that President Chavez will be called absent so that Diosdado Cabello, chairman of the National Assembly, can be declared the interim president.

Already there are conspiracy theories that doctors are keeping Chavez alive so that Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who is more pro-Cuba than Cabello, will become the next president.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan062013

Road to Post-Chávez Venezuela Still Nebulous

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The road to a post-Chávez Venezuela became a little bit less hazy Saturday, after legislators re-elected Diosdado Cabello to the post of National Assembly president.

Cabello is a long time Chávez ally with close links to the military. According to some observers, he clashes with Chávez's handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, over several issues, including the role of Cuban intelligence officers in Venezuela.

Cabello's re-election to the National Assembly post means that if Chávez dies before January 10 -- when he is scheduled to start his fourth consecutive term in office -- Cabello would have to take over as interim president of the country, until elections are held once again.

But if Chávez lives beyond that date, the transition process in Venezuela will continue to be a confusing affair.

Maduro, the vice president, said in an interview on Friday night that if Chávez is alive but not healthy enough to be sworn into office, Venezuela's Supreme Court could swear him in at a "later date."

"The constitution is flexible in that regard," Maduro told the Venezuelan state-run news channel Venezolana de Televisión. "Chávez has already formed his government," he added.

Maduro, who has taken over several presidential duties while Chávez is in the hospital, argued that Chávez's fourth period in office would begin whether there is an inauguration ceremony or not.

But this interpretation of the Venezuelan Constitution clashes with that of some opposition lawyers, who say that the January 10 swearing-in date is not flexible, and claim that if Chávez is not able to preside over the country on that date, Diosdado Cabello would have to take over as interim president.

Under this interpretation, Chávez's fourth term in office would never begin if he is too sick to be sworn in. Vice President Maduro would be out of a job and new elections would be held in order to form a new government.

For the moment, Maduro's plan to keep the current government running until Chávez can be sworn in at a later date is the most likely to prevail in Venezuela, as the country's Supreme Court is packed with allies of the socialist president.

The general consensus in Venezuela is that if Chávez dies at any time, before or after January 10, elections should be held within 30 days of his passing. However, there is also some room for debate here, with some lawyers arguing that according to the Venezuelan Constitution, elections only have to be "called for," not actually "held" in a 30-day period.

Of course, none of this legal debate may be necessary if Chávez miraculously recovers from his cancer surgery, and triumphantly returns to Venezuela, energized and ready to serve out his upcoming six-year term.

But the prospects of that happening are slim. The Venezuelan president had his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months in early December, and has not spoken in public since he headed to Cuba on December 9, nor written any messages on his massively popular Twitter account, as he did in previous post-surgery periods.

Rumors on the web, from journalists and doctors who claim to have obtained leaked information, say that Chávez is on artificial life support, able to breathe only with the help of a machine. On December 30, the Venezuelan government announced that Chávez had contracted a respiratory infection that arose from post-surgery complications, and on January 3, it updated his status, saying he now had a "severe lung infection."

Making things more uncertain, the Venezuelan government has not provided any further details on the president's health, prompting criticism from the opposition, who say officials want to keep citizens in the dark about Chávez's real status.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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