Whether Hugo Chavez is in critical condition, recovering, or dead, he definitely hasn't made a public appearance since June 10, when he left for Cuba to have surgery on his pelvis.
But clearly his absence is raising the cockles of his detractors -- or at least, it's perceived as such. Yesterday his brother, Adan Chavez, made a cryptic, alarming statement about the upcoming presidential elections -- not held until 2012. The AP reports:
Chavez's older brother said Venezuela's ruling party wants to retain power by defeating foes in elections. But he told government supporters that they should be ready to take up arms if necessary.
"As authentic revolutionaries, we cannot forget other forms of fighting," he said during a prayer meeting for the health of his 56-year-old brother in the leader's home state of Barinas.
Quoting Latin American revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the president's brother added: "It would be inexcusable to limit ourselves to only the electoral and not see other forms of struggle, including the armed struggle."
His pre-emptive statements seem to indicate the President will be out of commission earlier than the scheduled election, which would almost definitely cause tumult in the politically divided country.
"A search for a successor to Chavez would significantly scramble the country's politics," Michael Shifter, president of Washington thinktank the Inter-American Dialogue, told the AP. "A fierce power struggle within Chavismo would almost certainly ensue."
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