Despite a reportedly still-advancing cancer in his pelvic region, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez continues to vigorously campaign for reelection later this year. The Spanish newspaper ABC is reported to have seen an intelligence dossier claiming that Chávez has been put on the powerful painkiller Fentanyl to help him continue campaigning through his cancer-caused pain. Reports from Venezuela are that things are going well for the incumbent, which is helping to draw in further support, including the unconditional support of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s Worker’s Party.
The results of Venezuela’s presidential election have become an issue of abnormally major concern for the country’s hemispheric neighbours. Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe continues to maintain that Venezuela is a narcotrafficking haven, with a growing list of seizures in Latin America and Africa suggesting that there is some merit to this accusation. The suggestion is not necessarily that Chávez is directly responsible for the use of his country as a drug transhipment point (probably only his most virulent critics would maintain he is consciously supporting such activities), but that the centralization of power that he has encouraged has created a situation where effective control and oversight has been lost in many important areas of Venezuela.
Over at the blog Jacare Mirim Carleton University’s Prof. Jean Daudelin offers a penetrating analysis of the dangers this creates for the region — too many illicit interests are reliant upon maintenance of the existing state framework in Venezuela, which in turn is entirely predicated on Chávez’s own personal charisma. The worry for regional policy makers and security gurus is what will happen if Chávez either dies or loses the election. Will it push Venezuela towards being a narcostate, or will something more positive rise from the uncertainty. The problem right now is that nobody can tell, with seasoned Venezuelan analysts speaking off-the-record of a willingness only to discuss potential scenarios, not certain outcomes.