#ElmundoestaconChavez. When the news broke on Sunday that Hugo Chavez the charismatic president of Venezuela was temporarily stepping down from office to undergo radical cancer treatment in Cuba alarm bells went off. And although his fourth surgery seems to have gone relatively well the nation is justifiably worried. Chavez was just re-elected in October to another 6 year term by a wide margin and his popularity remains incredibly high. However with elections in 23 states on Sunday and a potential power struggle among elites in his government should he step down permanently Venezuelan politics could see a radical shift in the coming months. However, the biggest question hanging over the region isn’t simply what happens to Venezuela if Chavez is gone for good, but who in the region will stand up encroaching power grabs by the United States.
When Chavez came to power in Venezuela in 1999 he already has the resume of charismatic leader. He had been born into poverty and grew up desperately seeking to change the oligarchy that squandered the wealth of South America’s most oil rich nation. After a failed coup attempt and two years in prison he ran for office and the rest has been history. In a stark contrast to the neo-con policies of most other South and Central American nations Chavez Socialist party has openly nationalized businesses deemed unfair to labor, used vast oil profits to lift people out of poverty and given generously to other nations across the world for humanitarian aid.
Experts say that based on public announcements by Chavez it is unlikely he can fully recover from the type of cancer that he has. Unfortunately, sooner rather than later Venezuela will likely be thrown into political chaos. One of the few powerful leftist voices in the South, not to mention one of the most generous and Democratic OPEC nations in the world will fall silent on the national stage. For all of his flaws, we should hope that Chavez recovers the alternatives for labor, regional stability and the economy of the Western hemisphere may depend on it.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.