by Stephen Lendman
Major surgery for any reason is daunting. Imagine four times in 18 months for the same illness. On December 11, Chavez underwent it to remove cancerous tissue.
Malignancy reappeared weeks after examination revealed he was cancer free. Post-surgical chemotherapy, radiation, and other treatment now follows.
Hopefully it'll prove effective. He's too important to lose. He's Latin America's most charismatic leader since Fidel Castro. They inspire others to emulate their example.
Castro recovered from his own major gastrointestinal surgery. At the time, false reports pronounced him dead or dying. They were little more than wishful thinking.
Dark forces wanted him eliminated for decades. Even in semi-retirement they want him gone. He recovered well. It took time. It generally does for people in their 80s.
In August, he turned 86. Hopefully he has many productive years ahead. His intellect remains acute. His perceptiveness is keen.
His knowledge of vital issues is impressive. His honesty and integrity are impeccable. His forthrightness is noteworthy. He and Chavez mean so much to so many.
At 58, Chavez is younger. Hopefully his age and inner strength will bring full recovery.
On December 12, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said it began after undergoing six hours of successful surgery. He called the operation "complex."
He said "special treatments" are needed. The post-operative process will be "complicated and difficult," he added.
Chavez is getting the finest care at Havana's Medical Surgical Research Center (CIMEQ). He's in good hands. It's Cuba's best equipped hospital. It provides world-class treatment.
Addressing Venezuelans on national television and radio, Maduro said, "We are talking until dawn about the details of President Chavez's operation.
On December 12, Vice President Rafael Ramirez and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello returned home from Cuba.
Minister of Science and Technology Jorge Arreaza and Attorney General Cilia Flores remained in Havana. Together with Fidel and Raul Castro, they're monitoring Chavez's condition.
Maduro said surgery "was complicated, difficult and delicate, which tells us that the post-operative process is going to be complicated and difficult."
"We shall be in regular contact with the medical teams, always with the objectivity which must guide the management of this situation."
He added that before leaving for Cuba, Chavez called on Venezuelans "to be serenely prepared to confront these hard, complicated and difficult days which it has befallen us to experience, and they can only be confronted with the unity of the people, the political and social forces of the revolution, and men and women in the street."
He urged opposition elements to halt their speculation, lies and vitriol. Referring to Sunday's gubernatorial and legislative elections, Maduro said Venezuelans "are more united than ever spiritually and politically in loyalty to Chavez and our people."
During surgery, internal bleeding occurred. It was corrected. Mayo Clinic cancer expert, Dr. Julian Molina, said it's not unusual when surgery to remove malignant tissue occurs multiple times in the same place.
On Thursday, Chavez improved. Maduro said his condition changed from "stable to favorable."
"That allows us to continue saying that there is growing recovery in (his) situation," he added. Prayer vigils continue for his recovery. Uncertainty prevails. Venezuelans hope for the best.
Proper care, love, inner strength, and time are nature's best healers. Hopefully in combination they'll restore Chavez to full health.
Venezuelan television aired video opening with him saying "I am no longer myself. I am the people." Venezuelans of all ages followed, adding "I am Chavez."
Other programming showed him singing folk songs with supporters and reciting poetry. Venezuelans express justifiable concerns. They pray. They hope for the best. In the fullness of time they'll know.
Chavista politician/academic Aristobulo Isturiz said "as we pray, we should be ready to turn our sadness and pain into a force that can mobilize the people."
It's unclear if Chavez can return for his January 10 inauguration. Constitutional law requires new elections if he's not back within 30 days.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said Venezuelans "should be prepared to understand" whatever happens. "It would be irresponsible to hide the delicacy of the present moment and the days to come."
It's unconscionable not to pray for his full recovery. He's too important to lose. More than Venezuela is at stake.
On December 12, the Havana Times headlined "Chavez's Future Means Unknowns for Cuba," saying:
The future of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) without Chavez hangs in the balance. Founded in 2004, it grew to eight countries.
They include Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, Ecuador, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
It's a cooperative system of goods and services trade outside the exploitive WTO-international banking one.
Its goal is ambitious. It aims for regionally integrating and developing social societies throughout the region.
It's based on complementarity, not competition; solidarity, not domination; cooperation, not exploitation; and respect for national sovereignty free from predatory countries and corporate giants.
What will happen without Chavez? How will Cuba be affected? It depends on Venezuelan cooperation. It gets 100,000 daily barrels of oil on "highly concessional terms."
In return, Havana provides medical and educational services. Cuba expert Arturo Lopez Levy calls the arrangement "the backbone of ALBA."
Before leaving for Cuba, Chavez acknowledged his risks. In case anything happens, he named Vice President Nicolas Maduro his preferred successor. He urged Venezuelans to choose him if new elections are necessary.
Some observers believe National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello may challenge him. He's a longtime close Chavez ally.
It's thought his influence within Venezuela's military exceeds Maduro's support. Whether or not a power struggle emerges remains to be seen.
Hopefully Chavez will recover enough to return for his inauguration. Doing so would end speculation provided he regains full health.
Challenging weeks lie ahead. He's a warrior. He's indomitable. He achieved what few thought possible. Don't count him out.
At the same time, another president is possible. Cuba relies on ALBA trade relations. Losing it would replicate the post-Soviet "Special Period." Crisis conditions followed. Havana hopes that won't repeat.
Levy believes "With or without Chavez, Cuba will have to deepen its transition to a mixed economy and open itself up to foreign capital."
With it come huge risks. In his book titled "Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire," James Petras exposed six myths of direct foreign investment (FI).
(1) It doesn't create new enterprises and market opportunities. It buys privatized and other enterprises. It crowds out local capital and public initiative.
(2) It doesn't enhance export effectiveness. It buys minerals and other resources for export. It doesn't create jobs or stimulate national economies.
(3) It doesn't provide tax revenue and hard currency. It creates more indebtedness and net loss than gain.
(4) Indebtedness to foreign lenders is economically destructive.
(5) It doesn't provide developing countries with needed capital. FI exploits. It doesn't benefit recipient countries.
(6) It doesn't attract further amounts. Capital flows where returns are highest. It's anchored nowhere. It has no national allegiance.
Developing countries benefit most by relying on national ownership and internal investment. FI is predatory. Internally generated growth works best.
FI favors capital over labor. Political, economic and social inequalities result. From 1980 - 2000, Latin American FI proved socially disastrous.
Living standards plunged. Unemployment and poverty soared. Cuba knows what happened. Why adopt policies sure to fail.
Hopefully Raul Castro and other ruling officials will choose ways beneficial for all Cubans. Doing so without ALBA won't be easy. Hopefully it won't come to that, with or without Chavez.
ALBA is mutually beneficial. As long as Venezuela is progressively governed, it won't sacrifice what worked effectively for years. Losing it is likely only if dark forces regain power.
Nothing suggests it's possible any time soon. Hopefully they're banished forever.
Cuba faces other economic challenges. It suffered Gulf of Mexico oil exploration setbacks. US sanctions create hardships.
Nicaragua also voiced concerns about Chavez's illness. Since 2007, it got billions of dollars of aid.
Former Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) foreign minister and current National Assembly deputy Victor Hugo Tinoco said:
"The permanent absence of Chavez would pose different scenarios, which would all be adverse for (President Daniel) Ortega since he'd no longer have an unconditional ally in Venezuela."
Saying so, of course, is premature. At the same time, Nicaragua relies heavily on Venezuelan cooperation. Tinoco said $500 million in annual aid is provided.
He's also concerned about CELAC's future (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States). It's comprised of 33 countries. Potentially it's an OAS (Organization of American States) alternative.
Fulfillment remains a distant aspiration. Maduro hopes it'll achieve regional energy independence, social development in areas of food, health and education, beneficial environmental development, independence from predatory international lending agencies, and other benefits.
On February 23, 2010, it was established. It has miles to go to transform hope to fulfillment. The jury remains very much out.
Other regional countries also depend on Chavez. Bolivia is an important political and economic ally. So is Ecuador.
Rafael Correa's presence in Havana to welcome Chavez on arrival signaled the importance of their relationship.
He and others wonder if Chavismo will be the same without him. Hopefully they won't have to find out.
A Final Comment
Hope springs eternal. Reality can't be ducked. Family members, physicians, and government officials close to Chavez revealed little about his cancer.
It goes without saying that multiple surgeries for the same one in the same area give pause to worry. It's not a good sign.
At the same time, Chavez's age, indomitable spirit, and superb care offer hope for a full recovery. The will to live is a powerful positive force. It's pitted against an aggressive illness.
Dr. Salvador Navarrete claimed once to have been Chavez's personal physician. Venezuelan doctors said not so. More on their comments about him below.
On October 21, 2011, Medical News Today published his assessment of Chavez's health. The Mexican newspaper Milenio Semanal published them. He claimed the following:
"President Chavez has a tumor in the pelvis, called sarcoma. These are retroperitoneal tumors, at the base of the pelvis."
"From an embryological point of view (how it started, its origin), it could be mesodermal, ectodermal or endodermal."
"Information I have received from the family is that it is a sarcoma, an aggressive tumor with a very bad prognosis - and I am nearly completely certain this is true."
"That is why he is undergoing such aggressive chemotherapy. If it were some kind of prostate cancer, he would be undergoing hormonal therapy which would hardly be noticeable."
He added that it's not prostate cancer. It's "very close to the prostate. (It) probably invade(d) the bladder (or) originate(d) in the bladder and is invading the pelvis."
"It is most likely a tumor on the lliopsoas muscle. (It) runs from the lumbar portion of the vertebral column to the femur….The cancer either started in the muscle or has settled there."
On October 22, 2011, Venezuela Analysis debunked Navarrete's diagnosis and prognosis. Venezuelan doctors headed by Fidel Ramirez accused him of "scientific negligence."
Ramirez's practice includes general medicine and gastroenterology. He, opthamologist Earle Siso Garcia, and trauma surgeon Rafael Vargas accused Navarrete of "daring to make diagnoses and prognoses without the necessary medical information, which we reiterate is completely unknown to him."
Ramirez said he "does not have, nor has he had any scientific information in order to be able to talk about the health of president Chavez, not even about the type of cancer he endured."
He may have had informal contact with him, but "it was never a physician-patient relationship. There is no truth to (his) comment."
A joint press conference statement on live television added that Navarrete "has not been President Chavez's physician, nor the family doctor of any of the President's relatives."
His comments were uncalled for. They violated medical ethics. They lack "scientific grounding." They're based on "an alleged medical examination in which Navarrete never took part."
Fourteen months later, Chavez underwent his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months for the same illness. Recovery chances at best are daunting.
Hopefully they'll prove good. The fullness of time will have final say.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.