MIAMI — It’s been 40 days since anyone has publicly seen or heard from Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.
Keith Rosenn, a law professor at the University of Miami with extensive experience in Latin American legal affairs, asks what is on so many minds: Did Chavez die at some point after flying to Cuba on Dec. 10?
“It’s possible Chavez could be dead for a substantial period of time before we know he’s dead and why he died,” Rosenn said. “He’s in Cuba after all.”
The Venezuelan leader not only shares a special relationship with brothers Fidel and Raul Castro, but his socialist revolution is modeled in many ways after the Cuban system. Fidel ruled the country from the end of the Cuban revolution until he ceded power to Raul in 2006.
It’s highly unusual for Chavez to be gone from public view this long “for someone who craves attention,” Rosenn said.
Now 58, Chavez has seldom been out of the public eye since he assumed power in early 1999.
A former lieutenant colonel in the Venezuelan military, he grew up poor, only to wind up nationalizing and controlling his country’s vast treasure: oil.
Since assuming power, it’s estimated his country has pumped more than $1 trillion of oil onto the open market, while at the same time sharing his nation’s riches with like-minded leaders in Bolivia, Nicaragua, Peru and Cuba.
If Chavez is dead, his brand of socialism, so-called “Chavismo,” could live on “if the Chavistas who remain, remain united and are committed to his missions,” said Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami.
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