Under the Sign of Cancer

For several days, millions of people tried to decipher what happened in the hospital room where Hugo Chavez is resting. Because beyond the resilience of an individual, in that room is defined a part of the road map of this Island and an entire regional project involving several nations. This issue transcends the gravity of a tumor, the lamentable and sad illness of any individual, and becomes a true political upheaval. The surgery performed not only delved into the flesh of the tenant of the Miraflores Palace, but also created a wound through which can be seen the weakness of his work. Right now, in Venezuela, the political chess game is underway, even to the point of analyzing options for succession. In Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution the deliberations are also intense.

For the Cuban government, the healthy existence of Hugo Chavez has emerged as a guarantee for economic reforms at a rhythm and velocity that won’t lead to a loss of control. The 100 thousand barrels of oil that arrive daily from that South American nation sustain the process of “perfecting” the system driven by Raul Castro, and allow him to buy time in the face of citizen discontent and international pressure. Thus, to care for Chavez is to preserve the presidential seat, to lose him could hasten Raul’s own downfall. In recent weeks the island hierarchy has felt, once again, the vertigo of the abyss into which we sunk following the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, and it intuits that it could not survive the loss of another powerful ally. The vitality of the caudillo is also a guarantee of its own future, his weakness threatens a rapid loss of support.

We are also present at an authentic lesson of the inconstancy of the politics of the individual, hopefully one that will spark a rethinking among those committed to the vertical structure of Chavez’s rule. Without the incendiary speaker of international forums, without the leader who launches almost weekly verbal attacks, the region suddenly seems more contemplative, more centered. It is as if, in a plural chorus, the voice of the overpowering baritone, drowning out all other tones, had suddenly left the stage. We must not discount, however, that the speeches under the hot sun will return, the long perorations to demonstrate he is fully recovered, the hours in front of the camera on his Hello Mr. President show to prove that he is healthy. Hugo Chavez wants to get back into the role of an invincible figure, but inevitably something has happened to him. Something not foreseen by the opposition, or by the Cuban advisors surrounding him, or by the apologists who spread his ideas. Something related to the easily broken composition of a human being, a small detail of his anatomy that refuses to continue going along with his so pompous campaigns.

28 thoughts on “Under the Sign of Cancer

  1. A point worth making is that, while the theory of Marxism is that the superiority of the command economy will produce abundance, it is the capacity of the toiling masses in capitalist countries to buy hydrocarbon products that is preserving Venezuela and Cuba from starvation. In 1957, Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev boasted that the USSR would overtake the US within seven years. Three decades later, the entire Warsaw Pact had yet to produce a serviceable pair of jeans.

  2. I’ll believe Chavez has a terminal illness when I see him placidly and lifelessly restin in a coffin. Who are they kidding? This is another pantomime written by the Castro brothers and performed by their best actor Hugo Chavez. For what reason and with what intention? I don’t know, but something is cooking.

  3. Wow, CPaulino, a lot to think about. But there is worse examples of what you write about. In the middle east, every government is openly racist (and religiously supremist) and brutally so, at a level of the 19th century ku klux klan except more murderous. Millions have died from their policies. Yet they have oil, and so no matter how corrupt or stupid, they have some of the richest countries in the world, control the UN, and have every oil-dependent state in the world patting them on the back and begging at their feet.

    Let’s hope Latin America starts to elect honest government that makes organic development a priority. I think there are some hopeful signs over recent years, but according to what you write, am I wrong in my thinking?

  4. It never ceases to amaze me the capacity of my Latin brothers to bring into power the charlatans that have been either elected, or forced into the presidency. I felt that with the end of populist clown Abdala Bucharam’s regime, the resurgence of this discredited and ridiculous type of leadership would be over. But lo and behold, Latin America has not only maintained this cult-type failed model, but increased the number of caricature-like leaders.
    Perhaps it is a heritage of our own culture and idiosyncrasy that makes this leadership model successful in achieving power, but a failure as a governance model. Some have succeeded by unexpected reasons and have even become icons of role modeling, like Lula Da Silva, the most overrated president in history.
    But when you look at the long list of populist cartoon characters like Daniel Ortega, Rafael Correa, Cristina Kirschner, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Zelaya, Fernando Lugo, Jose Mujica, Ollanta Humala, Fujimori, Hipolito Mejia, Leonel Fernandez, Joaquin Balaguer, Raul Castro, among many, it appears this is no accident, but a trend turned into cultural reality.
    To think that Venezuela would even entertain replacing Hugo Chavez with his brother Adan, reflects the degree of decadence of our political culture. Castro for Castro was not enough of a disfunctional replacement, but we have seen the comical trend realized in the Peruvian nightmare scenario where this political aberration turns into chain reaction. From Fujimori, to Toledo to Alan Garcia to Humala and the possibility that could have brought Fujimori’s daughter, or Toledo back into power. Peru sits like a who’s who in disfunctional leadership.

    Latin Americans suffer from short memories and forgive blatant failures by former governments. Such is the case of Dominican Republic where two utterly incapable rulers like Hipolito Mejia and Leonel Fernandez have been in power since 1996, exactly 15 years and with their main political platform being the solution to the energy problem, the country is still mired in the most interminable blackout in the history of the world. One thinks of the Bagdad daily blackouts brought about by the Iraq War as the worst possible energy crisis, until you run into the Dominican situation. Dominicans have no electric power for at least 12 hours a day for 15 years!
    Worst yet, Dominicans have now accepted the highest energy costs in the world, paying for blackouts and having to permanently run their own energy thru inverter, power plants and solar panel units to fill the gap. Having and inverter at home is like having a TV.
    Besides electricity, Dominicans have water, garbage disposal problems and a long term fatal dependency on Hugo Chavez Trojan Horse, the maligned PetroCaribe program of cheap oil in exchange for political surrender to the Bolivarian dictator’s whims.
    Cuba is not the only country suffering from shaking knees at the specter of a Chavez fall from power, but all of the ALBA members and hangers on, like Dominican Republic and Honduras, to name a few. If Chavez falls, not even the ‘remesas'(income from ex-patriates abroad), narco-traffic, money laundering and smuggling, the main economic stays of these countries will save them from economic collapse.
    We are into a period of Banana Republic Stage II terminal disease. Luckily for our Latin nations, our politicians have tried immensely thru their corruptiin machine to destro our nations, but we have been saved by the interminable natural resources that have produced success stories in spite of disastrous governments. The resiliency of our geographical site and its kind nature has made some of our leaders appear as geniuses during their mandates
    The best examples of this are Alan Garcia, Cristina Kirschner and Ignacii Lula Da Silva who have demonstrated that GNP growth can be obtained with no talent at the helm. Dominican Republic has grown at an average rate of 5% without electricity 12 hours a day! Nicaragua headed by incest mad man Daniel Ortega is growing in the midst of a world crises. Mexico is growing despite 40,000 assasinations. Chile is the fastest growing Latin nation in spite of being governed by highly ineffective leaders. Why?
    Natural resources and a vast availability of commodities taken from the land itself, without value-added to the product when exported, mainly to commodity hungry China, India and East Asia.
    Brazil’s recent oil discoveries and its increased population would turn a donkey into a genius as president. Little credit can be given to Latin American presidents in the actual geopolitical reality.
    This is why we have perpetuated these eccentric, sometimes eloquent mad men and women into power, repeating the same mistakes over and over again and creating this new trend that if the man cannot run again, then the wife or the children can replace them in office.

  5. The Guardian is a COMMIE backed news paper. Be careful of what you read there, Its as true as DAMIR’s posts…. jejeje


  6. GUARDIAN UK : Chávez returns to Venezuela after tumour removed in Cuba-Thousands pack streets of central Caracas to celebrate return of populist president following month abroad-Tome Phillips and Virginia Lopez in Cararcas

    Political analysts had harboured suspicions that Chávez might attempt a high-profile homecoming to coincide with Venezuela’s independence celebrations on Tuesday – although those chances appeared to have faded last Thursday following Chávez’s admission he had been diagnosed with an unspecified form of cancer.

    Javier Corrales, a Venezuela expert from Amherst College in Massachusetts, described Monday’s dramatic, pre-dawn return as “typical Chávez.”

    “He is a micro-manager par excellence, convinced of his own indispensability. Thus a premature return is less surprising from Chávez than a prolonged absence,” said Corrales.

    “Governance in Venezuela might not necessarily improve with an ailing president back in residence, but at least the internal confusion and posturing within his ruling party will ease, for now,” he added.

    With a 2012 presidential election looming on the horizon and domestic headaches growing, Chávez needs to recover, and fast.

    Corrales said Chávez faced “a tough scenario” back home, with an ongoing energy crisis and economic woes presenting a treacherous run-up to the election.

    “Until his health improves, Chávez’s best hope to prevail in the forthcoming elections may be to win enough sympathy votes,” Corrales said.



  7. YOUTUBE : Sandra la cubana de la caja ( Woman flees Cuba in a box via DHL)


    In September of 2004 I posted a link to a story about a Cuban woman who packed herself into a DHL Crate and shipped herself to the US. While this act gives us plenty of comedic fodder, imagine the absolute hopelessness of your life, the dire circumstances you must be living to actually cram yourself into a crate and have yourself shipped out of your country as cargo.

    After over a year in custody Sandra De los Santos received political asylum yesterday:

    Cuban Woman Who Traveled To Fla. In DHL Crate Receives Asylum
    POSTED: 1:26 pm EST November 15, 2005

    MIAMI — A Cuban woman who stowed away inside a wooden crate flown by a cargo plane from the Bahamas to Miami will be allowed to stay permanently in the United States.

    Sandra De los Santos received political asylum Monday, nearly 15 months after a crew unloading the filing-cabinet sized DHL crate discovered her at Miami International Airport.

    “Now I really feel that I am firmly here, without fear,” De los Santos, 25, said after her hearing in Miami immigration court. “I am still nervous, but today I consider myself touched with happiness.”

    De los Santos said she was studying English and hoped to become an ultrasound technician.

    In his decision, Judge Rex Ford cited the risk of persecution she would face if she were returned to Cuba. Her attorney, Willy Allen, had argued that the heavy media attention his client received due to her unusual means of travel would make her an easy target for political harassment if she were sent back.

    “Her declarations appeared credible to the judge, who provided her the privilege of asylum in this country,” Allen said after the hearing, adding “I emphasize this word that many immigrants sometimes forget — privilege.”

    De los Santos, a former law student at the University of Havana, left the island for Nassau in May, 2004. Three months later, she tucked herself into the DHL box and remained in a fetal position for six hours, at times braving freezing temperatures, until the box arrived at the airport.

    Under the so-called wet-foot, dry-foot policy, Cubans who reach U.S. soil are usually allowed to stay, while most picked up at sea are sent home.

    DHL, when it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight.


    FORBES : George McGovern leaving Cuba without seeing Castro-By PETER ORSI

    HAVANA — Former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern was heading back to the United States on Monday without having seen Fidel Castro, whom he calls an old friend, for the first time in nearly 17 years.

    The 88-year-old former senator from South Dakota said officials told him Castro, who temporarily stepped aside as president in 2006 and then resigned permanently in 2008, has been “extremely busy” with official matters and the presence of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who left the island early Monday after several weeks recovering from cancer surgery.

    McGovern told The Associated Press last week that while he had not received an official invitation, people close to Castro assured him the ailing 84-year-old former leader would be happy to meet with him. He said he wanted to see Castro while the former Cuban president is still alive, and arrived in Havana on Friday.

    McGovern said that during his stay he met with officials including Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez; toured a Havana medical clinic that combines treatment, research and training; and dined at the popular restaurant La Guarida, famous overseas as the filming location for the Oscar-nominated 1993 movie “Strawberry and Chocolate.”

    “I would have come even if I’d known I wasn’t going to see Fidel. I’m interested in Cuba and the progress they’re making,” McGovern said.

    “Obviously the star of the show when you come to Cuba is Fidel,” he added. “But I knew that he was ill. I knew that the Venezuelan president was here and took a considerable amount of his time, so I’m not entirely surprised.”He told the AP he was leaving for the airport to catch his afternoon flight to Florida, where he maintains a second home. He said he may return another time, but had no immediate plans to do so.

    McGovern first visited Cuba in 1975, when he and Castro began what he described as a warm relationship.

    “It might seem hard to believe, but I spent a total of 14 hours with him, nearly all of one night and then a good part of two other days,” McGovern said. “By the end of that experience I felt I really knew the man and I felt that he knew me, and we’ve had a rather friendly relationship ever since.”

    He has returned a half-dozen times since then, most recently in 1994.

    McGovern, best known for losing the presidency to Richard Nixon in 1972, has long opposed the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and its ban on American travel to the island, and favors normalization of diplomatic relations.

    McGovern said he did not speak with Cuban officials about the case of Alan Gross, an American contractor who was working on a USAID-funded democracy program when he was jailed in 2009. Gross was sentenced to 15 years this spring on charges of illegally importing communications equipment.


  9. Humberto, I was just about to post the exact same link as you did in post 17. Would you please email me at mindpower@myway.com so that I can email you back and talk to you off of this forum?

  10. BLOGHER : Let’s blog Yoani to BlogHer – by: AnaRC – Founder

    I just spoke to Yoanni and she’s ready to submit her request for the “Carta Blanca” (White Card) to the office of immigration at the Ministry of Interiors. Yoani has been awarded the International BlogHer Activist Award and part of the award entails to join thousands of her fellow bloggers in St. Diego this Summer at BlogHer’11. There’s only one problem: The very same blog that has granted Yoani so many awards (Premios Ortega y Gasette in 2008, New York Times Top 25 blogs in 2009, Premio Principe Claud in 2010, the International Women of Courage Award from the U.S. Department of State in 2011) is also the blog that is keeping Yoani a captive of a government that considers her “a criminal” for the writing her own opinion. I guess that makes us all criminals. Me for sure!

    I’m not going to ask you what you think (since I already know) but I will ask you: What can you do about it? Since blogging is the best tool we have, I have an idea: Let’s blog Yoani out of Cuba. A pioneer in the blogosphere, who has taught and inspired so many of us must receive our support. I believe in the influence of all our voices united. In one choir, one prayer, one petition, one cry for justice. If you would like to blog Yoani to BlogHer, here are some ideas for your post:

    -An open letter to Gen. Abelardo Colomé Ibarra (Cuban Minister of the Interior)
    -An open letter to Raúl Castro (President of Cuba)
    -Your personal invitation letter to Yoani to come to BlogHer
    -Any else you might think relevant

    Once you write your post, please add it here to this blog hop. This will help us all find each other. You can also help by tweeting and retweeting all the messages with the #YoaniBlogHer hashtag. Ok, now let’s make it happen!


  11. Good article Humberto, the one from knoxnews, worth clicking on the link and reading the whole thing. A good example of honest accurate reporting.


    ASSOCIATED PRESS : In Cuba, black market thriving -Economic changes aim to drag shadow economy into light – PAUL HAVEN Associated Press

    HAVANA – Want some paprika-infused chorizo sausage? How about a bit of buffalo mozzarella? Or maybe you just need more cooking oil this month, or a homemade soft drink you can afford on paltry wages. Perhaps you are looking for something more precious, such as an imported air conditioner or some hand-rolled cigars at a fraction of the official price.

    In a Marxist country where virtually all economic activity is regulated, and where supermarkets and ration shops run out of such basics as sugar, eggs and toilet paper, you can get nearly anything on Cuba’s thriving black market – if you have a “friend,” or the right telephone number.

    An abundance of economic changes introduced over the past year by President Raul Castro, including the right to work for oneself in 178 approved jobs, has been billed as a wide new opening for entrepreneurship, on an island of 11 million people where the state employs more than 4 in 5 workers and controls virtually all means of production.

    In reality, many of the new jobs, everything from food vendor to wedding photographer, manicurist to construction worker, have existed for years in the informal economy, and many of those seeking work licenses were already offering the same services under the table.

    And while the black market in developed countries might be dominated by drugs, bootleg DVDs and prostitution, in Cuba it can cover anything. One man drives his car into Havana each day with links of handmade sausage stuffed under the passenger seat. A woman sells skintight spandex miniskirts and gaudy, patterned blouses from behind a flowery curtain in her ramshackle apartment.

    Economists, and Cubans themselves, say nearly everyone on the island is in on it.

    “Everyone with a job robs something,” said Marki, a chain-smoking 44-year-old transportation specialist. “The guy who works in the sugar industry steals sugar so he can resell it. The women who work with textiles steal thread so they can make their own clothes.”

    Marki makes his living as a “mule,” ferrying clothes from Europe to Havana for sale at three underground stores, and has spent time in jail for his activities. Like several of the people interviewed for this article, he agreed to speak on condition he not be further identified for fear he could get into trouble.

    Merchandise flows into the informal market from overseas, but also from the river of goods that disappear in pockets, backpacks, even trucks from state-owned warehouses, factories, supermarkets and offices.

    There are no official government statistics on how much is stolen each year, though petty thievery is routinely denounced in the official press. On June 21, Communist party newspaper Granma reported that efforts to stop theft at state-run enterprises in the capital had “taken a step back” in recent months. It blamed managers for lax oversight after an initial surge of compliance with Castro’s exhortations to stop the pilfering.

    “Criminal and corrupt acts have gone up because of a lack of internal control,” the paper said.

    An extensive study by Canadian economist Archibald Ritter in 2005 examined the myriad ways Cubans augment salaries of just $20 a month through illegal trade – everything from a woman selling stolen spaghetti door to door, to a bartender at a tourist hot spot replacing high-quality rum with his own moonshine, to a bicycle repairman selling spare parts out the back door. Ritter and several others who study the Cuban economy said it was impossible to estimate the dollar value of the black market.



  13. I haven’t followed Venezuelan politics, but when Chomsky the ultimate apologist for leftist mass murderers (such as Mao and Pol Pot), levels some mild criticism at a leftist politician, it can only mean something is seriously wrong with the mental state of the said politician. Chomsky usually lags a decade or two behind the rest of the world when it comes to his analysis of his leftist buddies.


    THE GUARDIAN UK : Noam Chomsky denounces old friend Hugo Chávez for ‘assault’ on democracy-Renowned American intellectual accuses the Venezuelan leader of concentrating too much power in his own hands

    Hugo Chávez has long considered Noam Chomsky one of his best friends in the west. He has basked in the renowned scholar’s praise for Venezuela’s socialist revolution and echoed his denunciations of US imperialism.

    Venezuela’s president, who hasrevealed that he has had surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumour, turned one of Chomsky’s books into an overnight bestseller after brandishing it during a UN speech. He hosted Chomsky in Caracas with smiles and pomp. Earlier this year Chávez even suggested Washington make Chomsky the US ambassador to Venezuela.

    The president may be about to have second thoughts about that, because his favourite intellectual has now turned his guns on Chávez.

    Speaking to the Observer last week, Chomsky has accused the socialist leader of amassing too much power and of making an “assault” on Venezuela’s democracy.

    “Concentration of executive power, unless it’s very temporary and for specific circumstances, such as fighting world war two, is an assault on democracy. You can debate whether [Venezuela’s] circumstances require it: internal circumstances and the external threat of attack, that’s a legitimate debate. But my own judgment in that debate is that it does not.”

    Chomsky, a linguistics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke on the eve of publishing an open letter (see below) that accuses Venezuela’s authorities of “cruelty” in the case of a jailed judge.

    The self-described libertarian socialist says the plight of María Lourdes Afiuni is a “glaring exception” in a time of worldwide cries for freedom. He urges Chávez to release her in “a gesture of clemency” for the sake of justice and human rights.




    MIAMI HERALD: Three Venezuelan scenarios – none of them good-By Andres Oppenheimer
    Now that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has publicly conceded that he has cancer — after his regime had accused independent media of being “agents of imperialism” for speculating that his prolonged stay in Cuba was due to a serious illness — here are three scenarios of what may happen in Venezuela. All of them point to turbulent times ahead.

    Scenario 1: Chávez beats the odds. The Venezuelan president, who has been hospitalized in Havana since June 10, returns to his country to continue his cancer treatment at home and recovers in time to run for the December 2012 elections.

    Despite his sagging popularity, which according to a recent Keller and Associates poll has dropped to 41 percent, while 53 percent of Venezuelans reject him, Chávez draws public sympathy for his illness. It’s hard for opposition leaders to criticize an ailing Chávez for his disastrous economic management.

    Venezuela’s economy — despite benefiting from the biggest oil boom in history, it ended last year with one of the lowest growth rates and highest inflation levels in Latin America — continues to deteriorate. Chávez’s highly personalized ruling style results in even greater economic chaos with an ailing president who can only work part time.

    But Chávez, making the most of his illness, campaigns as a humbler, more conciliatory candidate, and — helped by a divided opposition — draws enough support to win the next elections.

    Scenario 2: Chávez’s big brother steps forward. Chávez has to undergo tough chemotherapy sessions that drain him physically and emotionally, preventing him from running for president. At the advice of Cuba’s Castro brothers — who would have the most to lose if Venezuela’s opposition wins next year’s elections and cuts Chávez’s massive oil subsidies to the island — Chávez nominates his older brother, Adán Chávez, as his government’s presidential candidate.

    Adán Chávez, a physicist who has been one of the president’s political mentors, has been Venezuela’s ambassador to Cuba, and is seen as the Chávez government’s top liaison with the island’s regime. Adán Chávez is currently governor of the Chávez family native Barinas state and is seen as the leader of the Chávez inner circle’s radical leftist, pro-Cuban wing.

    On June 27, amid growing rumors in Venezuela that the president had cancer, Adán Chávez was quoted by Venezuelan media as saying that it would be “unforgivable” for the government “to limit itself only to electoral ways, and not to pursue other methods of struggle, including armed struggle,” to stay in power.

    Scenario 3: A military-supported “Bolivarian bourgeoisie” candidate. A fierce power struggle erupts within the president’s inner circle, and Venezuela’s military hierarchy persuades the president to appoint former Vice President Diosdado Cabello — Chávez’s all-purpose aide and bagman — as the government’s presidential candidate.

    The top armed forces generals, many of whom have become multimillionaires under the Chávez regime but do not support a Cuban-styled communist model, fear Adán Chávez would replace the armed forces with Cuban-styled semi-independent territorial militias. They support Cabello, who is believed to have become fabulously rich himself in recent years, because he would lead a crony capitalist government without abandoning Chávez’s radical leftist rhetoric.

    My opinion: Chávez would obviously prefer the first scenario, but if his health doesn’t allow him to run for reelection, he will go for the second one — his elder brother.

    It won’t be a smooth ride. Between now and the 2012 elections, a partial power void at the top is likely to encourage greater corruption and mismanagement. A highly personalized government whose maximum leader can only work part time — and spends long periods of time receiving medical treatment in Cuba — can only result in uncertainty and greater economic chaos.

    Amid the coming political turmoil, Venezuela’s opposition will have its greatest opportunity ever to prove its democratic credentials, and show that it doesn’t support any other outcome than peaceful elections next year.

    Let’s hope they don’t squander this opportunity, because the coming political unrest will tempt all sides with extra-constitutional solutions.


  16. Afro-Cuban religion priest uses to say ” the done evil always turns back to the evil maker” ……. that’s chavez punishment….. same as castro’s.
    Something no oen in media or politics circles have analyzed is the fact that castrofascism now have Venezuela’s destiny in its hands sure than ever. “El Patan” believed all the time that castro and castrofascism were a secure ally without taking in consideration the long history of betrayals and dirty manipulations of its “allies” achieved by castrofascism and castro personally. Lumumba, Kabila, Boumedien, USSR, Guevara, Bishop, Allende, are some names of international figures that lost the live and /or power by castro’s betrayals. The list is gigantic if you account the betrayals and physical elimination of castrofascism’s inner collaborators along last 65 years. Now chavez’s live is in castro’s hands, now surely the movements and plots behind the scene in a Venezuela practically occupied by castro’s elite forces and intelligence rats are going on frenetically. Today castro clan is deciding if chavez “survives” cancer or not, if chavez becomes “mentally capable” to continue as president or not, today they are planning who will replace the clown in case they decides to get rid of him and maybe they are planning how to take over Venezuela’s control in a deeper way…….. of course, the “Patan” never thought about his dark fate and Patan’s followers neither.

  17. AFP : Chavez health scare leaves dependent Cuba on edge-By Isabel Sanchez

    HAVANA — A health scare for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who underwent surgery for cancer in Cuba, has generated deep concern in the Americas’ lone communist country which depends politically and economically on him.

    Chavez, 56, has been in Cuba for three weeks. Officials say he has undergone two rounds of surgery, the first to treat a pelvic abscess and another to extract a cancerous tumor.

    “Hopefully, nothing will happen to him. Without Chavez, things in Cuba would get extremely rough again like before. We would be back to blackouts,” said Elisa Castellanos, a 68-year-old housewife.

    ‘Before’ refers to the period before Chavez was first elected president in 1999. His arrival to power meant that post-Cold War communist Cuba, politically adrift and its economy in tatters after losing the East bloc support it depended on for three decades, got a new lease on life.

    The lease has lasted a decade; now Chavez’s mortality potentially could be its demise.

    Venezuela became isolated Cuba’s main political ally — supporting and helping fund regional economic and media initiatives — and its main economic partner and underpinning.

    Critically, Chavez’s Venezuela has provided cut-rate oil to Cuba, which Havana otherwise would be hard-pressed to afford. That has kept Cuban power plants on line mostly after years of maddening blackouts.

    Venezuela now provides Cuba with 100,000 bpd of its crude — just over half Cuba’s consumption.

    Cuba in turn also sends almost 40,000 teachers and doctors to Venezuela for whose services the Cuban government is paid as contractor before it compensates its workers.

    Venezuela’s state oil giant PDVSA meanwhile is helping Cuba explore its waters so it can tap its own significant reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. If Cuba is able to meet its own energy needs and even sell oil, its regime could project itself decades into the future.

    Venezuela is involved in Cuban projects small and big, like remodeling and refitting the oil refinery in Cienfuegos, Cuba, and building a fiber optic cable for high-speed Internet. Their cooperation also is tight on food supplies, technology, transportation, and tourism.

    Their 10-year-old close cooperation, which generates about six billion dollars a year for Cuba — the island’s top source of income — and is without precedent in Latin America.

    The arrangement quietly riles the United States, whom the leftist allies decry as an “imperialist” peril.

    Chavez’s portrait is a common sight on political billboards on roads and even in barbershops across Cuba, alongside images of revolutionary icon Fidel Castro, 84, and President Raul Castro, 80.

    The Venezuelan president has kept support strong even after a then-ailing Fidel Castro handed power to his brother Raul in 2006. Just June 8, Chavez signed another cooperation agreement worth 1.3 billion dollars.

    “Chavez is our brother, he is Fidel’s son. We love him a lot, he is really another Cuban, a Cuban leader. He gives us oil, highways, cooperation,” Maria Gamito, a retired teacher, told AFP.

    Raul Castro is implementing some small economic reforms, mostly decentralizing and allowing more self-employment. But he also has refused to embrace China-style capitalism, and any political opening.

    “The relationship with Venezuela is the most strategic one the Cuban government has,” Arturo Lopez-Levy at the University of Denver, told AFP.

    It can survive without Chavez, but under much tougher circumstances, he stressed.


  18. ASSOCIATED PRESS: Havana’s small community of Twitterati meets IRL-By ANDREA RODRIGUEZ

    HAVANA (AP) — A few dozen members of Cuba’s small but growing Twitter community have met in real space for the first time. They got to put unfamiliar faces with familiar user names, and they commiserated about the woeful Internet access on an island that has the second-worst Web connectivity rate in the world.

    Gathering at a downtown Havana pavilion Friday, Cuba’s Twitterati wrote their online handles on name tags emblazoned with the Cuban flag and the hash tag used to organize the event, TwittHab. One by one they introduced themselves, told of their history with social media and compared numbers of followers.

    “Many of us didn’t know each other. This is about stepping out from behind the ‘at’ symbol,” said “alondraM,” who was only identifying herself by her username.

    Next to her, “cuba1er.plan,” a.k.a. Alejandro Cruz, said Cubans like him are increasingly using social media to share interests and information.

    Their ranks are still relatively sparse because Cuba lags far behind the rest of the world in connectivity, besting only the Indian Ocean island chain of Mayotte, according to a report by the consulting firm Akamai Technologies Inc.

    The decades-old U.S. economic embargo has left Cuba without a hardwired connection to the rest of the world, and the island relies on slow, costly satellite service. The Twitter users expressed hope things will soon speed up now that an undersea fiber-optic cable to Venezuela has arrived in Cuba. It could go online this month.

    For now, plodding dial-up is about the only option — and even those accounts have historically been hard to get and prohibitively expensive for most Cubans. The government says it must use its limited bandwidth carefully and gives priority to usage with what it deems a social purpose.

    Cuba’s National Statistics Office reported last year that just 2.9 percent of islanders said they had direct Internet access, most through their schools and workplaces, though that number doesn’t reflect the black market sale of minutes on dial-up accounts.

    The real figure is more likely between 5 percent and 10 percent, said Ted Henken, a professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College in New York who has traveled to Cuba frequently and is writing a book on social media and civil society on the island.

    It all creates unique challenges for tweeters in Cuba. For one thing, their local audience is relatively small. Also, cost and availability limit how much time they can spend connected. And while Twitter is popular in other nations among smartphone-toting technophiles, limitations here mean most Twitter interaction happens on computers.

    When users here want to send a tweet from the field, they send a cellphone text message to an overseas number that converts and posts it, said Mario Leonart, a 36-year-old from Villa Clara known online as “maritovoz.”

    It’s expensive: $4 for the initial setup, plus $1 per tweet. Send 20 tweets and you’ve already equaled Cuba’s average official monthly salary.

    Some get around that by hitting up followers abroad when they start to run low on funds, Henken said, citing the case of one tweeter he monitors.

    “Like most Cubans he doesn’t have a whole lot of money to be able to do this, but he tweets all the time,” Henken said. “So he must have this feedback from people who follow him, because they put money in his account.”

    Nevertheless, Henken said, Twitter’s immediacy and the fact that Cubans are learning to take it mobile are creating an incipient “new narrative” that at least has the potential to challenge state domination of information.

    “Just like in the rest of the world, it can be used as a form of pushing back against the mainstream media — and, of course, in Cuba the mainstream media is the official government media,” Henken said. “So it does act as a corrective on what’s happening or gives another version of events.”

    For a little more than an hour Friday, the tweeters talked about strategies for staying connected and dreamed aloud about having Internet in their homes.

    The event was organized by Leunam Rodriguez, a 26-year-old radio station employee who has been tweeting for just a few months.

    Rodriguez, who doesn’t fall into either the pro- or anti-government camps, pitched the meet-up as an apolitical gathering.

    But when the venue was moved from a pizzeria to the Cuba Pavilion, Yoani Sanchez, known internationally for her blog writings opposing the government, complained that the meeting had been “kidnapped” by officialdom. Ultimately she skipped both the gathering and the handful of tweeters who met at the pizzeria.

    Rodriguez denied that the site change was politically motivated.

    “I’ve said that I don’t belong to any organization. I’m just a Cuban,” he said.

    Henken said tweeting in Cuba will involve politics, no matter what individual tweeters might want.

    “I think Twitter is political even when it’s not political,” he said. “The (Cuban) system is very monolithic; therefore even if you use Twitter to promote a sewing circle … it’s political because it is unfiltered.”


  19. John, I don’t think there will be a Cuban Missile Crisis II. This time USA will strike hard to reduce Venezuela to rubble

  20. ***
    Hugo Chavez = Fidel Castro II. Stole liberty from the people in his country. Destroyed the economy. Wants to be “president” for life. Mummy II. Works with Iran’s murderer to bring on Cuban Missile Crisis II. Deja Vu all over again.
    Hugo Chavez = Fidel Castro dos. Robo la libertad de la gente en su pais. Destruio la economia. Quiere ser “presidente” por la vida. Momia II. Trabaja con el matador de Iran a causer Crisis Cubano de Cohetes II. Estamos mirando estas acciones otra vez.
    John Bibb

  21. BBC NEWS : Venezuela ponders Chavez’s medical absence

    After weeks of speculation about the health of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelans are now adjusting to the reality that their head of state has been treated for cancer in Cuba and may not return to the country for some time, says the BBC’s Sarah Grainger in Caracas.

    President Chavez appeared frail during a recorded message to the nation broadcast on state television on Thursday evening.

    He admitted he had undergone an operation in Cuba to remove cancerous cells.

    It was the first time Venezuelans had seen him speak in three weeks since he had fallen ill while on an official visit to Havana.

    For some people on the streets of the capital, Caracas, Mr Chavez’s announcement came as a relief.

    “There’s been a lot of speculation so I’m happy that now we know what’s happening,” said Hilberto Caravalo.

    But Italo Calderon said the president’s place was back home.

    “The president should be treated in Venezuela because we need him back here,” he said.Throughout his absence his ministers have insisted that he is capable of running the country from Cuba, and has been in constant contact with his inner circle.

    In a live broadcast from the presidential palace which immediately followed the president’s message, Vice-President Elias Jaua emphasised national loyalty.

    “Unity is what is required right now,” he said.

    “To all the revolutionary forces of the country, allied parties, social movements, we call you to unity, maximum discipline, to co-ordinate the actions necessary to move forward with our revolutionary politics,” he said.

    Political uncertainty

    But the president’s announcement has strengthened calls for him to step aside temporarily and allow his vice-president to take over executive powers.”The country’s problems… lack of electricity, the prisons, medical strikes, continue to require attention whether or not the president is here,” opposition lawmaker Eduardo Gomez Sigala told the BBC.

    In the longer term, the announcement has implications for the president’s ambitions to run for another six-year term of office in 2012.

    “It raises the possibility that next year’s elections should be brought forward because we can’t live with this vacuum for a prolonged period,” said Manuel Felipe Sierra, a political analyst based in Caracas.

    And beyond his own personal ambitions, President Chavez’s absence has highlighted the fact that there seems to be no apparent heir to his position within his Socialist Party.

    “Chavez isn’t a president, he’s a leader,” Sierra said.

    “It’s all about his personality and when a leader is not there, there is an important gap.”

    It now looks unlikely that President Chavez will return to Venezuela to take part in bicentennial celebrations scheduled for next Tuesday.

    But as he has been absent from the country for almost a month, Venezuelans are already getting used to living without him.


  22. This opens the gates to supposition; the possible scenarios to play out are myriad. This development intensifies the debate on allowing U.S. tourism to the island prison to reopen adding dollars to the Castro coffers at a time that the end of Venezuelan oil subsidies could end is defeatist of the goal to pressure change in Cuba as it would once again serve to give Castro yet another lifeline at a time when their financial collapse might be complete. This is especially relevant if the oil exploration venture with Repsol should run into possible difficulties and not prove as valuable as they are claiming it will be.

    With the Castro regime being forced to make fundamental changes such as allowing the buying and selling of vehicles and real estate properties by Cuban nationals something they had prohibited for fifty-two years so as to alleviate the pressures mounting from within due to their failed economic and political systems the last thing we should allow to happen is the relaxation of the embargo. Let’s keep the pressure on this tyranny for it will never change of its own free will as their lust for power will not allow the two evil Castro brothers to relinquish control till their death.

  23. YOUTUBE : Hugo Chavez miente tres veces (Hugo Chavez lies at least three times)- Interview from 1998 by Jorge Ramos of Univision !

  24. Note to dictators in Cuba:
    The reality of mortality is unavoidable, power does not stop death she is the great equalizer & is terminal.

  25. Yoani, an amazing post. The whole house of cards of the tyrants is starting to tumble.

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