Rumours over Chavez absence reach frenzy in Venezuela

CARACAS, (Reuters) – The guessing game over  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s health took new twists today with rumours ranging from a possible takeover push by  his brother to a homecoming by the end of this week.
Chavez’s June 10 operation in Cuba and disappearance from  public view have convulsed the volatile and politically  polarized South American OPEC member of 29 million people.
Utterly dominant on Venezuela’s political stage since 1999,  Chavez has far advanced sweeping socialist reforms including  nationalization of large swathes of South America’s biggest oil  producer. The 56-year-old aspires to re-election next year.
But now some are asking if he can make it to the vote.
The government says he had surgery for an abscess in the  pelvis and is recovering fine. But it has given no more medical  details nor a clear timetable for his homecoming.
That, combined with the normally garrulous and ever-present  president’s silence, has led to speculation he may have a much  more serious problem.
“We are not going to comment on rumors, lies and  falsehoods. The president is recovering well and we will have  him here soon,” Information Minister Andres Izarra said in the  latest official rebuttal of the crescendo of rumors.
Well-known Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda reported  on Tuesday in opposition-leaning El Universal newspaper that  Chavez had lost 10 kilograms and was digesting liquids only at  Havana’s Cimeq hospital during treatment for prostate cancer.
Despite that, he would have an 80 percent survival chance  and plans to return on Friday for more treatment in Venezuela,  Bocaranda said, quoting unidentified medical sources.
Other local media also quoted army sources as saying Chavez  would be back in time for a military ceremony on Friday.
One new rumor is that Chavez’s older brother Adan, governor  of the Andean state of Barinas and ideological mentor to the  socialist president, is preparing to try to take the reins  should the seat of power be vacated.
Outraging the opposition, Adan Chavez was widely quoted at  the weekend as citing a phrase by Argentine revolutionary  Ernesto “Che” Guevara that the “armed struggle” was a  legitimate means of winning power if elections failed.
U.S.-based intelligence think tank STRATFOR said that Adan  and other factions may begin positioning themselves to fight  for succession if Chavez’s situation does turn out to be  serious.

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