Death of Chávez leaves immense void

Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez react to the announcement of his death outside the hospital where he was being treated in Caracas yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Supporters of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez react to the announcement of his death outside the hospital where he was being treated in Caracas yesterday. Photograph: Reuters

Wed, Mar 6, 2013, 00:00

Such was his dominance over all aspects of Venezuela’s public life during his 14 years in power that Hugo Chávez’s death undoubtedly leaves an immense void at the heart of his country’s political world.

But paradoxically, it also provides a chance to bring an end some of the uncertainty that has increasingly gripped the South American country since Mr Chávez was last seen alive in early December just before he travelled to Cuba for treatment.

In the three months since his sombre farewell address to his countrymen, his government had struggled to maintain the fiction that he was still in charge amidst rumours that he was in fact fighting for his life.

With no sign of him returning from Cuba in January,  a Supreme Court packed with Mr Chávez’s supporters went so far as to threw constitutional propriety out the window when it relieved him of his own constitution’s obligation to present himself for swearing in for a third presidential term on January 10th, choosing to believe his aides’ claim he was running the country from his hospital bed in Havana.

The opposition cried foul and demanded the activation of a constitutional provision for a medical commission to examine whether the president was fit for office. The Supreme Court judges - in a ruling that seems even more cynical today - said they saw no grounds to do so.

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