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Insight: Behind the Clues of President Chavez After two Months Without Him

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2013-02-12-Chavez_signature-8446843829_29cf981b33_c.jpg Venezuela's Vice-President Nicolas Maduro shows a decree signed by President Hugo Chavez during a ceremony in Cumana, Feb 3, 2013. Photo by Venezuelan Presidential Press

It has been more than 60 days of uncertainty in Venezuela, since President Hugo Chavez had a fourth surgery on Dec. 12 in Havana, as part of his ongoing battle against Cancer .

The Venezuelan authorities has been limited when informing about Chavez's health. However, they claim the President has been in meetings with cabinet members and signing decrees in Cuba. Yet there haven't been any photos, telephone calls or video appearances of him -- unusual of the omnipresent dignitary.

The opposition demands proof of life of Chavez. They charge the Venezuelan government is hiding Chavez's true health status because if he was healthy enough to govern from Cuba he should also be healthy enough to do a public appearance.

The information regarding Chavez's health provided by government authorities in several interviews with media since the surgery has been hermetic and contradictory.

The government has said Chavez's cancer is in the abdominal area but not what kind of cancer it is, they informed the surgery was "successful" and lasted six hours but not the purpose of it. They have given only general statements of his recovery.

The details provided have been vague at the moment of informing the "delicate and complex" recovery process, his complication, and his fight with a respiratory infection.

Even government authorities have contradicted themselves when reporting on Chavez's health. Such as was the case on Jan. 24 when Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez was going through "the best moment" after his postoperative, but later Chancellor Elias Jaua said Chavez is in the "most complex phase" of his illness.

Leaks of information paint a darker picture of Chavez's true state. Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda, from Spanish newspaper, ABC's Washington correspondent Emili J. Blasco, and Venezuelan doctor residing in U.S. Jose Marquina, have been the most consistent in informing the behind-the-scenes aspects of Chavez's cancer since it was made public in 2011.

Their reports try to fill the holes left by the government. Leaks have said that Chavez has a rhabdomyosarcoma, an incurable and aggressive cancer.

The surgery he had was reportedly a spondylectomy and he recently lost his voice due to permanent damages made by his therapy.

He reportedly has had pneumonia, a mild heart failure, septic shock, and renal failure. Chavez has been deeply sedated and intermittently tubed and in assisted respiration, among other details of his fragile situation.

The life expectancy of the President, according to leaks, is not further than April, due to the advanced metastasis he has. That has destroyed the expectation of a "triumphant" return of Chavez to Venezuela to start his mandate.

Leaders of the Venezuelan opposition have denounced the lack of clear information from government authorities. They have called several times for the creation of a medical board to evaluate if Chavez is able to return to the chair of power, something that could lead to new presidential elections. The calls of the opposition have been denied by the government because they consider it would be a violation of Chavez's "dignity" and "privacy."

There haven't been any independent reviews of Chavez's health, and even the Latin American dignitaries that have traveled to Havana to visit Chavez haven't said they have seen him in person.

So far Government supporters trust unanimously the reports of Chavez's health given by the government, and have condemned information provided by the opposition and other sources, which have been accused of waging a "media war" against the Bolivarian revolution.

Who is really governing in Venezuela?

Chavez didn't attend the swearing in for his new term as President, an act that was postponed with the approval of the Supreme Court, which also allowed the ministerial cabinet from the previous period to continue to function as such.

The Supreme Court ratified Chavez's new presidential term, and called the swearing "pure formalism" because Chavez is already a president in power and there is a "continuation of his mandate."

The court considered that the information given by the government related to Chavez's health was enough and ruled out the creation of a medical board to asses if Chavez could recover well enough to take power, as is described in the Venezuelan constitution.

With this, the highest judicial body resolved the crisis born from the multiple possible interpretations of the Venezuelan's constitution. It also used the constitution to deny demands for a medical board to rule whether Chavez is in the condition to lead the country or if new elections should be called.

The Supreme Court didn't impose any deadlines to declare a possible absence, so that status quo may be extended indefinitely. The government party called it a victory of the "popular will"

Due to the extended absence of Chavez, opposition analyst and politicians are asking who is really governing in Venezuela. The lack of information on the details of the health of the Venezuelan dignitary while he is in Cuba recovering create more doubts than answers.

The opposition has been describing the situation in Venezuela as a vacuum of power and have denounced the shift of the seat of power to a foreign nation. However, Venezuelan authorities have denied it, saying Chavez is in front and leading government, giving orders while he recovers in Havana.

Since Chavez's surgery, information provided by the government claims that Chavez has been conscious, communicating, and giving government orders, but the doubts of the true health of Chavez have made some analysts ask if the President is in any condition to really be at the head of the government making decisions.

Several members of cabinet have gone to Cuba seeking direction of the president in topics of national matter. Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, Minister of Oil Rafael Ramirez, Defense Minister Diego Molero, and Minister of Technology Jorge Areaza all have traveled to Cuba to see Chavez, and of all them have said they had meetings with the Venezuelan head of state.

Many of them have expressed after arriving in Venezuela that Chavez has been relaxed, talkative, and conscious. Even in some cases strong, with good humor and making jokes.

In the last two months after the President's surgery, government officials have said that Chavez has signed decrees in Cuba, from assigning Elias Jaua as the new chancellor of the republic to giving orders on several areas.

From the devaluation of Venezuelan currency by a 46.5 per cent against the U.S. dollar, the increase of the rate provided to social projects from the profits of the state oil company PDVSA, the approval of funds for the launching and expansion of social projects, providing the guidelines for the management of the country's gold reserve, the formation and equipment of the armed forces, and directions for the government's political party PSUV, among others.

Each time the Venezuelan government announces a decree or letter from Chavez, authorities show documents with a perfect signature of Chavez on it. This has raised doubts because the signature doesn't present inconsistencies or signs that a signature made by a convalescent patient of cancer would have.

Venezuela wakes up each day with rumors and conspiracy theories, as consequence of the uncertainty and lack of transparency of the events unraveled following the absence of Hugo Chavez. Some analysts speculate that high-ranking members of the 'Chavista' government, such as Vice-President Nicolas Maduro and the President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello, are really the ones governing, using the name of Chavez and his signature to hide their actions.

Click here to see in full size the timeline of all the information released about Chavez's health from government and non-government sources