Panama’s former ambassador to the Organization of American States, Dr. Guillermo Cochez, a person who is usually well informed, affirms that Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, died a few days ago and challenges the government of that country to prove otherwise. How? In the only credible manner: by producing the sick man or, failing that, his cadaver.
Until now, the spokesmen of Chavismo — Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, Vice President Nicolás Maduro, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello — have said contradictory things, but they are beginning to spoon out bad news about Chávez’s health, as if they were preparing public opinion to announce the fatal outcome as described by Cochez.
If, in fact, Chávez has died, they have to announce it that way, because so far they’ve played with the deception that he was gradually improving. That was a lie to which Fidel Castro himself lent his already minimal credibility, publicly assuring all that the Bolivarian leader was in a process of recovery, a lie that cannot be undone at one blow but little by little, so as not to discredit even further those who deceived the Venezuelans and public opinion in such a cruel and barefaced manner.
When will this happen? The problem seems to lie in Nicolás Maduro’s illegitimacy. If the information conveyed by Cochez is true, Chávez died without swearing his oath of office, so Maduro could not have been appointed vice president. Therefore, he occupies that post fraudulently, which constitutes a flagrant crime in the Venezuelan Penal Code, punishable with imprisonment: usurpation of duties.
Who really knows what really happens in the government’s inner circle? No doubt, too many people for the secret not to be revealed shortly: the Castros and about 20 other Cubans, including the medical personnel that cared for Chávez in Havana, where apparently the brain death occurred; Chávez’s family (daughters, siblings, parents, former wives); the leadership of his political movement, former Vice Presidents Elías Jaua and José Vicente Rangel, and a dozen high-ranking Venezuelan army officers who watch the situation nervously, troubled by uncertainty.
In all, more than a hundred people know exactly what’s happening, not counting the world’s main intelligence services: the U.S., Russia, Israel and even China, which is gambling billions of dollars on Venezuela’s future and — in case a chaotic situation ensues — has already dried out Caracas’ sources of funding.
All these services have the ability to intercept and listen to telephone calls, hack electronic correspondence and decipher the encrypted messages that governments exchange internally. In addition, all of them have collaborators placed near the seats of power who provide information that’s more or less reliable.
Because of its desire to hoard power at any price, Chavismo has volutarily placed itself in this desperate situation. What can it do? The honorable thing, if Chávez has died, is for its leaders not to continue deceiving the Venezuelan people, including the Chavistas themselves, and come out with the truth: when and how the president reached the end of his life.
Thereafter, the nation can turn to the Constitution, with its defined legal procedures to deal with this situation, recurring to democratic means without the need for a burst of violence.
According to the Constitution, Maduro must relinquish power — even if he’s chosen as the candidate of Chavismo — while Diosdado Cabello assumes the presidency and calls elections within 30 days.
Of course, the pro-Chávez leaders can continue to entangle themselves in their lies by inventing a post-mortem swearing-in by Chávez and a false appointment of Maduro. But all they would achieve is the exhaustion of Venezuelan public opinion, by now disgusted by the deception, as if society were composed of fools.
In any case, the basic premise is what former Ambassador Cochez declared: Let the world see Chávez, dead or alive.