Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 7:10 am
A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds a heart-shaped sign that reads in Spanish "I vote for Chavez!" and a picture of Chavez outside the National Assembly in Caracas over the weekend. On Thursday, Chavez is scheduled to be sworn in for a fourth term. Government officials are suggesting the ceremony could be delayed as the president recovers from cancer surgery in Cuba.
In the Bolivar Plaza of downtown Caracas, supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrive carrying photographs of their leader and singing songs urging him on. Music blares from loudspeakers, repeating over and over, "Chavez, my commander, is here to stay."
Chavez, however, is most definitely not here, and increasingly many Venezuelans wonder if he'll ever be back. He flew to Cuba, Venezuela's closest ally, for an operation that took place on Dec. 11. Before leaving for his fourth cancer surgery, Chavez named a successor.
Venezuela is facing a political crisis. Longtime President Hugo Chavez is being treated in Cuba for a recurrence of cancer and resulting complications. He is supposed to be sworn in to a third term as president this week, but he might not be well enough to attend the inauguration. What then?
Hugo Chavez has dominated Venezuela for so long that it's hard to imagine what the country would be like without him in charge. Opposition leaders are hoping for a new, more democratic system. But powerful factions in Venezuela want things to stay just as they are. Because the country is a key player in the region, NPR's Tom Gjelten says the U.S. is now making its own plans for life after Chavez.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speaks on November 1.
Credit AFP/Getty Images
Venezuela's National Assembly has approved a measure that allows President Hugo Chávez to leave the country for medical treatment in Cuba.
Chávez, as we've reported, has been battling cancer for more than a year. His treatments and the secrecy surrounding his condition led some to wonder whether he could handle a rough reelection campaign. But he made a remarkable comeback and handily won another term in October.
Venezuelans go to the polls Sunday in an election that will decide if President Hugo Chavez remains in power. Polls indicate it's his most serious electoral challenge since taking office nearly 14 years ago, and it's mobilizing large numbers of voters in Venezuela — and in the U.S.
Nearly 20,000 Venezuelans living in Florida are registered to vote, and most arrived in the past decade, since Chavez took power. He upended the old power structure, installing a socialist government that seized property and nationalized industries.