HAVANA TIMES — This past Saturday night, as people sat in front of their TV’s watching the Brazilian telenovela, a voice suddenly cut in. An announcement came on saying the broadcast was being interrupted for a live report with important information from the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela.
Held in suspense, viewers remained in front of their screens to find out what this was all about. As it turned out, President Hugo Chavez, along with a group of senior officials of his government, were announcing to the Venezuelan people and the world that he would temporarily take leave from his presidential duties for health reasons.
With his voice breaking and eyes swollen, he went around and around the issue (which was obviously difficult for him to address).
With his customarily dense rhetoric, the most notable of the current populist leaders in Latin America — with the greatest of regret in the world — acknowledged that his health would no longer permit him to carry the heavy responsibility of running the country.
He discussed how he would step down until he was physically better, but the underlying theme was not what he voiced.
Chavez — who had overcome a coup attempt, media campaigns and the opposition — now has a stronger opponent, one which he apparently can’t beat.
The terrible illness of cancer, a leading cause of death worldwide, is striking the president.
He said new cancer cells had appeared in the areas of his body where they had previously been removed, requiring him to again be surgically treated. Chavez was therefore returning to Cuba, where he has been receiving treatment for his condition since June 2011.
He sang the national anthem and gave his statement about his provisional leave, but it seemed more like a farewell. Maybe his health is much worse than he’s leading people to believe (what has to be government strategy).
Millions of Venezuelans, along with millions of other Latin Americans and people from other places are pausing for a moment and keeping vigils to pray for the president’s health.
For Chavez — the most gifted pupil of Fidel Castro, who he always wanted to be like — it seems as if life had allowed him to follow in the steps of his mentor, but he is now recognizing that God has simply taken away the power to physically carry on.
As I said once before, though he’s not my personal hero, I do recognize the accomplishments Chavez has made and the social projects he has undertaken for the most dispossessed classes. These are achievements that should be recognized. Because of all this, his farewell has continued to move me emotionally, at least a little.