Rumors, secrecy and the hermeticism lasted until the last day before the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The government handled the illness of Chavez with emotionally charged messages, religious references and few medical details.
According to the government, Hugo Chavez died Tuesday after he went through the "most difficult hours" in his fight against cancer at the Carlos Aveledo Military Hospital in Caracas at 4:25 pm local time, leaving the South American country mired in anxiety and tension.
A communications vacuum wrapped his last months of life. The type of cancer that Chavez suffered and the details of its complications are a secret. Chavez never made a public appearance in the span of 87 days between his last public appearance and the day his death was announced.
Meanwhile, the government claimed that up to four days before his death the President dictated government orders and signed presidential decrees. This created skepticism from analysts and parts of society who argued and demanded that if the President was well enough to govern he should also be in the conditions to address the nation.
Simultaneously, the focus on the president's health relegated to the background problems of national life and the state, such as a struggled economy, the high fiscal deficit, skyrocketing inflation, public debt, commodity shortages, corruption, uncontrolled crime, failures in the national electricity system, among others.
The opposition and the media criticized the government for hiding the true health status of Chavez. Leaks of information given by the media showed the true gravity of what the government meant.
To appease public criticism, the government, on February 15, released photos of the president they claimed were taken with his daughters the night before. The veracity of the photos was questioned, as Chavez appears with more weight than when he went to Cuba for treatment, and one of his daughters doesn't appears with the marks of a recent surgery to her nose
The only concrete information given by the government regarding the president's continued illness was that he was suffering from respiratory complications. Shortly before the announcement of the death of Chavez, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the Venezuelan president had "a very severe situation in your respiratory system."
Government first reported in early January on Chavez respiratory problems, by the end of the month the government reported that his breathing problems were "under control." However, three days before the unexpected arrival of Chavez in Caracas on February 18, the government informed that Chávez had "some degree of respiratory failure" and was breathing through a tracheal cannula. On February 21, the government announced that Chavez's respiratory failure persisted and on March 4 reported that Chavez suffered a "new and severe infection" and that was in the form of "immunosuppression" and his health was described as "very delicate."
After the arrival of Chavez in Caracas, the government explained that the president had a government meeting that lasted five hours with his staff, during which the president communicated via writing. With Chavez in Venezuela, the opposition demanded the president be sworn in immediately.
Chavez was unable to be sworn in on January 10, as indicated by the constitution of the South American nation. The event was postponed with the ratification of the Supreme Court's new presidential period of Chavez. The court described the oath as a "mere formality", considering that President Chavez is a function and there is a "continuation of its 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.
Venezuelans were able to know the details of Chavez's health thanks to work done by Nelson Bocaranda, a journalist, correspondent of the Spanish newspaper ABC, Emili J. Blasco and Venezuelan U.S. resident, Dr. Jose Marquina.
They, with sources close to the events in Havana, Caracas and intelligence sources, reported details constantly about Chavez's cancer since it was first made public in 2011.
Chavistas leaders described their work as "psychological warfare" to confuse people. The government attacked the international media that broadcasted unofficial information related to Chavez's health, calling them "necrophiliac" and "manipulators and fascistic."
According to leaked information, Hugo Chavez died with an advanced lung cancer in his left lung, possibly created due to the extent of metastasis of an aggressive and incurable rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor that occurs in the muscles between the bones, which originated in his pelvic area and spread to his spine.
The reason for his fourth surgery, which the government never disclosed, according to various unofficial sources, was a spondylectomy to treat the area affected by the cancer in his spine and prevent a collapse of the same.
Chavez after his surgery suffered from pneumonia, septicemia, septic shock, a slight heart attack, kidney failure and was on long periods of deep sedation and intermittently intubated and on assisted respiration.
The newspaper ABC reported in January 2012 that Chavez's medical team gave him approximately 12 months to live if he wasn't subjected to adequate treatment. Hugo Chavez ran last year in the presidential elections saying that he was "completely cured."
However, several sources, including Dr. Marquina, reported that Chavez was hiding the truth about his illness and was still suffering from cancer. Marquina said the dignitary's life expectancy was no more than the first four months of 2013 due to the negligence of Chavez with his illness.
ABC said that during the two years Chavez's suffered from cancer he never treated his illness adequately. He delayed chemotherapy to hide his situation, and had them only in dates where his absence wouldn't be so noticeable
The Spanish newspaper cataloged Chavez as "a big ego who resisted releasing the power to heal."
Picture by Venezuelan Presidential Press.
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