Caracas: President Hugo Chavez`s revelation
that he is battling cancer raises questions about the future
of his drive to bring socialism to Venezuela and create a
Latin America free of Washington`s influence.
The biggest question, though, is just how sick is he?
Suddenly, the issue isn`t so much about how long Chavez should
govern after 12 often tumultuous years in power, but how long
In a surprise announcement Thursday night, Chavez
disclosed that he had a cancerous tumor removed while on a
trip to Cuba last month, though he didn`t give details about
what kind of cancer or say how soon he might return home.
During his tenure, Chavez has become a maverick leftist
voice and an oil-rich benefactor for governments from Cuba to
Nicaragua to Bolivia. His campaign to counter US influence in
Latin America has led him to build alliances with foes of
Washington across the globe, from Iran to Libya`s Muammar
Now the uncertainty over his health has raised questions
about how long that will continue and whether a successor
would maintain what Chavez`s opponents call his policy of
"checkbook diplomacy" to prop up the region`s left. Chavez
denies accusations that he has lavished excessive oil-funded
aid on allies, saying his government`s oil deals with allies
such as Cuba are mutually beneficial.
Chavez aides insisted yesterday that the president was
still fully in charge and working from Cuba while recovering,
though it was unclear how long his recuperation might take.
In the streets, hundreds of the ailing leader`s supporters
poured into a downtown plaza, shouting "Onward, commander!"
"With the grace of God, he`s going to get through all of this,
and we`re going to wait for him to return with all the
strength in the world," said Luis Rodriguez, a Chavez
supporter who joined the crowd.