Chavez Governing From Cuba Feeds Questions About Leader’s Health

Charlie Devereux and Jose Orozco

Venezuelans, who in the past decade have grown accustomed to watching Hugo Chavez make national policy in near-daily television appearances, must now get used to him governing from a hospital bed in Cuba.

Since traveling to the communist island June 9 and undergoing unannounced surgery to remove a pelvic abscess, the normally hands-on leader has stayed out of the spotlight, making a single telephone call into state-run television. That’s raised questions about the true state of his health after other medical problems this year, and is forcing friends and foes alike to ask who’s in charge of South America’s biggest oil producer.

Chavez, 56, was last seen in public June 9 walking down the steps of his airplane in Havana with a metal crutch. The former paratrooper said he injured his knee while jogging last month, adding that stress had been building on the joint since his younger days playing baseball and jumping out of airplanes.

“I’m not sure he can sustain this for weeks, appearing by phone once in a while,” Daniel Kerner, an analyst for the Washington-based Eurasia Group, said in a phone interview from Buenos Aires.

Chavez told Telesur network by phone June 12 that he decided to seek treatment in Cuba, the final stop in a tour of allied governments in Latin America, after feeling pain in his abdomen while in Brasilia and Ecuador. He gave no estimate about how long his recovery would take, saying only that his injury was “delicate” and that there’s “no reason to hurry” home.

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H/T Babalu blog

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