Apparently, the people who know Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez best and work with him most closely think he’s a liar. That’s the only possible reason why, despite Chavez’s frequent and continuing claims that his cancer (type and status still held as a secret) has miraculously been cured, his entourage is erupting in a mad scramble for the succession.
As Hugo Chavez gets back in touch with Jesus as to why his cancer resurfaced, the Economist reports that his fellow United Socialist Party (PSUV) members are bringing the struggle for succession into public view:
None other than the president’s brother, Adan Chavez, the governor of their home state of Barinas, alleged in a recent article that treason stalked the corridors of power. Although he named no names, he hinted that the traitors belonged to the ruling clique. Some commentators saw a link between his allegations and a perceived struggle for succession.
As the article continues, there are signs that a schism is forming between Diosdad Cabello, VP of the party and chair Venezuela’s legislature, and Elias Jaua, VP of the country. The state governors are throwing their hats in the ring as well:
Mr. Cabello is also engaged in a very public spat with the governor of the eastern stae of Monagas, Jose Gregorio Briceño, who is universally known as El Gato (“the cat”). Mr. Briceño was expelled from the PSUV last week for violating party discipline. Their dispute became an open rift after an oil spill contaminated a Monagas river that supplies drinking water to the state capital, Maturin. With the national government insisting the water was safe to drink, the governor refused to turn on the taps, saying he would not be responsible for poisoning consumers.
Briceño plans to run as an independent candidate to keep his gubernatorial post in December. Chavez faces his own re-election in October, but polls show that what opponents call his dirty campaign is keeping him comfortably ahead of challenger Henrique Capriles. Until those elections, Chavez (and in his absence, his loyalists) will struggle to keep all of his Chavismo ducks in a line even as grassroots dissent grows. But unless Jesus means it the next time he grants Chavez a special personal revelation that he is completely cured of cancer, expect these power struggles to grow more intense and more visible. Chavez has destroyed Venezuela’s political institutions but is leaving its problems unsolved: his successors will not have an easy time.