Last night, we found out that Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, did not just have a "pelvic abcess" drained while visiting Cuba. He had a cancerous tumor removed, which sounds like prostate cancer, but I suppose could be almost anything internal.
His absence has left a vacuum in Venezuela underscoring a system that is not only incapable of selecting a replacement but also institutionally incapable of balancing competing (some of them criminal and potentially violent) elements within the government. The risk--not just now--is that even should he return to full health, Venezuela is fast becoming a failed state, held together by one sultanistic leader and the opposition's hatred of him.After his speech last night, the Vice President, Elías Jaua and others called for "maximum unity" in the Partido Unido Socialista de Venezuela (PSUV). That unity is likely to fray with President Chávez's uncertain recovery and his probable intermittent absence as he seeks treatment. Criminal elements within the regime are likely to pursue any means possible to avoid being revealed and relinquishing their nefarious and lucrative businesses. Already there are rumors of individuals within the government reaching out to segments of the opposition.