Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Venezuelans ponder life without Chavez

Venezuelans ponder life without Chavez
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Since Hugo Chavez became Venezuela's president more than 12 years ago, he's been a constant presence in the lives of Rosiri de Blanco and her family.
The 41-year-old mother of four has loyally watched Chavez's weekly TV program "Hello, President" and received subsidized food from the popular markets his government set up. When her hillside slum home was damaged in a mudslide in November, she and her neighbors moved into a public housing complex covered with posters of the charismatic leader.
Then, without warning nearly four weeks ago, the ever-present "comandante" disappeared from public sight.
De Blanco and her fellow evacuees in the Conde housing complex are now discussing what would have been unthinkable just a month ago: the possibility of a Venezuela without Chavez.
"Without Chavez, there's nothing," de Blanco said as she and her neighbors prepared to hold a small Mass for the president's recovery in their building's courtyard. "It's necessary to think about him, but it's necessary to have a positive attitude. We are asking God that Chavez leave all this behind him."
Despite the president's return from Cuba on Monday, his health and political future remain very much in doubt as he recovers from a June 20 surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his pelvic region.
The 56-year-old leader appeared fatigued during his speech to thousands of supporters Monday afternoon from a balcony of the presidential palace. He himself admitted during the address, "No one should believe that my presence here ... means that we've won the battle. No, we've begun to climb the hill. We've begun to beat the illness that was incubated inside my body."
Talk about Chavez's future is buzzing across this bustling capital city, as newspapers, radio programs and conversations on the street weigh questions of succession and the fate of Chavez's socialist-inspired Bolivarian Revolution.
De Blanco said she wept the night of June 30 when she watched a thinner, weakened Chavez reveal his medical state for the first time.
For much of the past month, Venezuelans had the unusual experience of seeing very little of Chavez publicly. He arrived in Cuba on June 8 for what his government said was a scheduled visit.
In the following weeks, there were no broadcasts of "Hello President" or the usual hourslong televised speeches by the famously loquacious leader. Until his June 30 revelation, Venezuelans received scant communication from the president, such as a June 12 phone interview with state television and short videos of him convalescing in a track suit.
Chavez stunned the nation with his announcement of the cancer. He didn't say what type of the disease he was fighting or reveal his prognosis for the future.More...

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