Under the Sign of Cancer / Yoani Sánchez

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.

1 July 2011