After returning late Friday to Venezuela following three weeks of treatments for the relapse of his cancer, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is back at the center of Venezuelan politics.
He danced for supporters over the weekend and vowed to win the October presidential election, notwithstanding his most recent medical visit to Cuba. Although Chávez has conceded the return of his cancer, he has not detailed the seriousness or nature of the disease or even much about its treatment.
On Monday, however, Chávez, in bizarre fashion, outlined an assassination plot against his chief rival, Henrique Capriles. Chávez, in discussing the alleged plot, did not provide many details, but denied that the plot came from within the government. The president offered protection to Capriles, although it’s debatable how much protection is truly on offer from Chávez, given that the announcement itself seemed a veiled threat against Capriles.
The latest “threat” comes just after shots were fired at a Capriles rally last week in a Caracas slum and Chávez stronghold.
Capriles, the governor of Miranda state is a young and energetic young face who won the February primary of the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática, the chief opposition group in Venezuela. With doubts about Chávez’s health and doubts among all segments of society (except perhaps the poorest) about Chávez’s accomplishments, and with a truly united opposition for the first time in years, Capriles represents the strongest threat to Chávez in perhaps his 13-year reign in Venezuela.
Capriles responded Monday that the president should not give protection to any one Venezuelan, but should guarantee the protection of all Venezuelans, who suffer from one of the world’s highest crime rates, tweeting:
Nuestro pueblo lleva años viviendo inseguridad,violencia,no tener tranquilidad.Mi lucha es tener un país sin violencia y lo lograremos!
(In translation: Our people have spent years living with insecurity, violence and without tranquility.My struggle is to have a country without violence and we will achieve it!)
Truly bizarre, but certainly neither the last bizarre nor the last violent moment in a campaign that still has seven more months to unfold.