London - There's been a great deal of controversy lately about Hugo Chavez's condition. All of it, whether from chavista officials, Venezuelan opposition voices, or observers, was either manipulation or speculation in my opinion. It continues to be so. Chavistas honchos allowed into the first circle (Diosdado, Maduro, Jaua, Arreaza, Ramirez) are just saying whatever their Cuban handlers are telling them to say, while Venezuelan opposition politicos, media, and other observers are, quite simply, clueless about Chavez's real condition, for no one has been able to penetrate / infiltrate the Castro's hold on information related.
Anyone who's ever been to Havana and spent time with dissidents would know that information control is perhaps the only thing at which Cuba excels. That being the case, the only thing left to do was / is wait, for whatever information coming out. Today we've learned that Chavez is back. That was to be expected. The question is whether he's well enough to carry on with his 'revolution'. I think he is getting there.
When Fidel Castro fell ill, he got treated first by Cuban doctors. What happened then? Real doctors were brought in, proper diagnosis were made, and adequate treatment was administered. The dictator's still around. I think something similar happened with Chavez: his first operation by Cubans was a complete disaster, after which truly competent doctors were drafted. At first, Chavez did not pay much heed to medical counsel, but the cancer eventually caught up with him.
In what would appear to be another feat of extraordinary political calculation, a steroid-pumped up Chavez wrestled with his cancer last year, just long enough to achieve what he wanted: a resounding presidential victory in October. I think he had all this planned all along: win another term, further humiliate the opposition in regional elections, go get well in Cuba for as long as necessary, and come back to ultimately finish off his "work".
I have been speaking with family, friends and sources back in Venezuela in the last weeks and months. They all seem to agree that things have deteriorated dramatically in the last few weeks. But what of the political situation? Chavez, and his designates, continue to control all levers of power in the country. All the ones that matter that is, and that's the only reality people commenting on this issue need to consider.
It's all good to ponder about devaluation, how it affects local and international interests operating in Venezuela, Cuba's poor photoshopping skills, political persecution against powerless foes and so on, but the truth of it is that none of it really matters, for Hugo is back, alive we are led to believe, and is in command. No international partner will stop betting and banking on Hugo, he's got far too much discretionary power for anyone to suddenly say "we're pulling out." And internally, alas, the situation is hopeless: the opposition just does not have punch, it is the epitome of an old, toothless dog.
While Hugo headed back to the military hospital where he will be looked after, he has nothing to fear: as long as he is alive his reign, and hold over Venezuela, will continue regardless. In the past, in almost every instance that has imperilled his hold, Chavez has been conciliatory at first to then further radicalise his positions. Devaluation may seem to some as such radicalisation, but it was a step that needed doing a long time ago. Political opponents however better be warned: Hugo is back!