CARACAS, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez’s new complications after cancer surgery prompted his closest allies to call for Venezuelans to pray for him Monday, presenting an increasingly bleak outlook and prompting growing speculation about whether the ailing leader has much longer to live.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro looked weary and spoke with a solemn expression as he announced in a televised address from Havana on Sunday that Chavez now confronts “new complications” due to a respiratory infection nearly three weeks after his operation. He described Chavez’s condition as delicate.
The streets of Caracas were abuzz Monday with talk of Chavez’s increasingly tough fight, while the news topped the front pages of the country’s newspapers.
“He’s history now,” said Cesar Amaro, a street vendor selling newspapers and snacks at a kiosk in downtown Caracas. He motioned to a newspaper showing side-by-side photos of Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, and said politics will now turn to them.
Amaro said he expects a new election soon to replace Chavez. “For an illness like the one the president has, his days are numbered now,” he said matter-of-factly.
A government-organized New Year’s Eve concert had been planned in a downtown Caracas plaza featuring popular Venezuelan bands, but was canceled due to Chavez’s condition. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas on Sunday night urged Venezuelans to keep their president in their prayers.
Political analyst Ricardo Sucre said the outlook for Chavez appears grim, saying Maduro’s body language during his televised appearance spoke volumes.
“Everything suggests Chavez’s health situation hasn’t evolved as hoped,” Sucre said. He said Maduro likely remained in Havana to keep close watch on how Chavez’s condition develops.