Venezuela in suspense as Chavez absent for 2 months
CARACAS (AFP) – Hugo Chavez vanished from public view two months ago Sunday, with Venezuela still in suspense over its political future despite assurances its cancer-stricken president is getting better and back in charge.
The latest information on Chavez’s condition came Friday from Vice President Nicolas Maduro, who read a message from the ailing leader after visiting him in the Cuban capital Havana where he has been convalescing from a fourth round of cancer surgery.
“I am in a process of slow recovery, but I am in the battle,” Maduro read.
In Chavez’s absence, and ostensibly with his approval, his government has begun to move on some pressing issues, announcing a steep devaluation of the national currency on Friday.
The bolivar’s markdown from 4.3 to 6.3 to the dollar had been widely expected because of pressures created by soaring deficits and a scarcity of dollars, which in turn has led to shortages of imported staples.
“Shortages are on the rise along with inflation and government spending has decelerated,” said a report by consulting firm Ecoanalitica, which said “Chavez’s absence has made the economy take a back seat.”
Senior government officials, who have been shuttling between Caracas and Havana, insist Chavez is becoming more and more engaged and will return to the Venezuelan capital “sooner rather than later,” as Maduro put it.