Senior allies of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez have dismissed reports he is sicker than the government has admitted, telling his enemies to "stop dreaming" of his death.It's a vast right-wing conspiracy, perhaps.
The normally verbose leader has not been seen in public since a June 10 operation in Cuba to remove a pelvic swelling. His long absence has prompted widespread speculation he may be seriously ill, possibly being treated for prostate cancer.
Accusing opponents of cynically rejoicing at his health problems, government officials insist Chavez, 56, is fine and that he should be back for a regional summit planned for Venezuela's 200th anniversary of independence on July 5.
"President Chavez is recovering well from his surgery. His enemies should stop dreaming and his friends should stop worrying," Vice Foreign Minister Temir Porras said on the social networking site Twitter.
"The only thing that has metastasized is the cancer of the Miami Herald and the rest of the right-wing press."
Meanwhile, even though Dear Leader Hugo is ready to do jumping jacks and will allegedly return to Venezuela by next week, his brother is ready for an armed struggle.
With Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez incommunicado and reportedly convalescing in Cuba, his brother told an audience that both arms and the ballot box could be used for Venezuela’s ruling party to retain power.
“As authentic revolutionaries, we cannot forget other forms of fighting,’’ Adán Chávez said at a prayer meeting in Barinas, Venezuela, that was devoted to the health of his 56-year-old brother, who grew up there.
Quoting Latin American revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he added: “It would be inexcusable to limit ourselves to only the electoral and not see other forms of struggle, including the armed struggle.”
Adán Chávez, a mild-mannered former university physics professor who has a close relationship with the president while maintaining a low profile, did not explain why it might be necessary for the president’s backers to consider the possibility of guerrilla warfare in the future, and the statement seemed to clash with Hugo Chávez’s own assertions.
The comments came during a day of intense speculation that the leader may be gravely ill after reportedly undergoing emergency surgery 16 days ago.
Fernando Soto Rojas, president of the National Assembly, said rumors that Chávez has been diagnosed with cancer are false. He added that he expected the president to return home before July 5, Venezuela’s independence day.
Throughout South Florida, the news — or lack of it — prompted discussions of a post-Chávez Venezuela.
“If we can get rid of him, we’re not going to have another Fidel Castro in our country,’’ Pablo Cardenas said after a dinner with friends and family at Caballo Viejo, a popular Venezuelan restaurant in Westchester where photos of Venezuelan telenovela stars hang on the bulletin board.