President Hugo Chávez, who has not been seen since entering surgery in Cuba on June 9th for a pelvic abscess, is reportedly in critical condition in Cuba
. The bombastic socialist strongman, who is Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's best friend and defender on the world stage, is now being visited by members of his family who have urgently flown to Cuba to see him. The self-proclaimed spiritual successor of Fidel Castro has ruled over Venezuela for the past twelve years and, in that time, has limited the freedom of the press, rid the country of term limits and separations of power, stacked the courts with his puppets, nationalized the nation's banking and energy industries as well as media outlets, allowed inflation and crime rates to go through the roof, and arrested judges who did not obey him and citizens who went too far in criticizing him. A pupil of Fidel Castro and admirer of Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin, he has consistently sought to build relations with those regimes considered to be among the most despotic and/or dangerous in the world-- Iran, Libya, Cuba, and Syria, while purchasing weaponry from Russia and getting closer to China. He has sought to defend Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a genocidal dictator largely responsible for the crisis in Darfur and the murders in Southern Sudan, and Gaddafi, who we all know by now is not a nice guy. King Juan Carlos I of Spain really put it best when this impudent man was being a nuisance at a international summit, famously muttering to the fellow, "Por que no te callas
Because of the force of Chávez's personality and the cult he has built around it, there is no successor to lead his movement in Venezuela. At long last the opposition may finally be able to take power, free the press, and undo the constitutional crisis he has thrown the oil-rich nation into. Any change in the status quo could have major geopolitical implications, particularly in regards to Cuba-- the Castro brothers maintain the communist island's energy mostly through deals with Chávez. However, we should not be too optimistic; because Chávez has completely undone the constitutional order in Venezuela, his absence from power could conceivably thrust the nation into civil strife or an even worse dictatorship. It must be watched closely.
It is also worth noting that the egocentric Hugo Chávez has a thing for theatrics, and that Venezuela will celebrate 200 years of independence on July 5th. It is entirely possible that this thing is just a ruse to silence his political critics so that he can return triumphantly on July 5th. Time will tell.