Published On: Mon, Jan 14th, 2013

A weekend at Bernie’s

Ted Kotcheff’s comedy “Weekend at Bernie’s”, about a pair of losers trying to pretend that their dead employer is still alive, became the script for Venezuelan’s power trio visiting El Commandante on his death bed in Cuba this past weekend.
Earlier, Nicolas Maduro, vice president and acting president, had already informed his handwringing devote Chavez followers, convened in a 24/7vigil that he had a 30-minute discussion with the President, who had informed him on budget matters. Supposedly the president was walking and doing exercise. With political adversaries, Congress Chief Diosdado Cabello and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez on his side, an update of Chavez health was issued by Maduro. The President was responding very well to treatment of a respiratory infection. He made it sound as if Chavez was suffering from nothing more than a bad cold.

Dr. Jose Rafael Marquina MD, a Venezuelan specialist of Naples, Florida and an insider who broke the information and secrecy ban on Chavez health, informed that Chavez’ cancer--- a leiomyosarcoma--- had spread to the lumbar spine causing paralysis of both legs. Also, metastasis were detected in urine bladder, intestines and lungs. The President is breathing through an opening in his air pipe from a tracheotomy, and hooked up to an artificial respirator. So Chavez has been unable to talk or walk since 10 December 2012 and most likely, will never do so again. Marquina advised the Chavez family to move Chavez to the USA, since Cuba has no experience in treatment of these kinds of cancers and the treatment for the so-called lung infection had turned out as a disastrous failure.

Hugo Chavez’ health remains shrouded in strict secrecy since the onset two years ago, and that secrecy has become the source of endless speculations. Whatever the actual truth about the health of Hugo Chavez may be, it has become very clear that the Venezuelan government is unable to function without their legendary leader.
Chavez presided as sole dictator with micro control over so many issues that it seems impossible for any one man to succeed him. Local urgent problems are mounting. Venezuela’s budget deficit is consistently around 20%, which compared to the EU-deficit financing norm of 3% appears astronomical. Country wide all infrastructure is failing from lack of maintenance and reinvestment. Crime of all sorts is at world records and murders are even higher than in Mexico and Honduras.

Domestic oil refinery is at such low capacity that of all oil exports 20% has to be reimported after refining abroad. Oil production, officially set at 3,5 million barrels per day, is at half capacity of which 20% is donated to loyal allied countries like Cuba and Syria. Venezuela’s largest customer, the USA, is cutting back oil imports due to its own increased local production. The unofficial exchange rate for US dollars stands at 400% of the official one. Venezuela today is de facto rudderless without Hugo Chavez, but a troika of eager and power hungry successors is in waiting.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, handpicked by Chavez as his successor, is an ex-union activist, former bus driver and not very popular, in popular elections he would not stand any chance. Diosdado Cabello, a former soldier and one of the coup leaders of 1992, holds a powerful sway over the military, some ministries and governorships. He was portrayed by Maduro as a thug and others as “Al Capone,” who will undoubtedly betray Chavez and his revolution in any upcoming power struggle. “People are worried that Diosdado and I are killing each other,” said Maduro during a rally on 10 January, Chavez’ official but missed inauguration date. The military made it very clear that it will not accept any new election outcome that would upset the present power structure.

Oil minister Rafael Ramirez who also resides over Pdvsa, the state own oil company, and billions in petrodollars, is holding the money bag and appears to outsmart his competitors by financing massive free housing projects to Chavez loyalists.

So the three are positioning themselves for the transition, hardly as a troika and more as fierce competitors. Shamelessly the body of deadly sick Chavez is used in the struggle as a harlequin prop, a dead Bernie.

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