Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hugo Chávez, The Patient Dictator, Visits Mother Cuba. Meanwhile, Back in Bedrock...

Probably the biggest story coming out of Havana today deals with the surgery of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The rumor mill has been spinning tales that Chávez’s cancer has metastasized and that there are no signs of metastasis; that the operation took an hour and forty-five minutes, and that no operation could ever be done in that amount of time; that the Russian doctors give him no more than a year to live, and that the Cuban doctors give him two years to live; and that something terrible must have happened because there are helicopters flying over the hospital where he had the surgery, and that no, nothing terrible happened to him, but that Fidel Castro’s sister, who was in the same hospital, died (a huge mistake by the angel of death).

Why all the upset and rumors? It’s simple: without Chávez in power, Venezuela would stop subsidizing the fragile Cuban economy and what little economic activity presently taking place, would grind to a halt. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Cuba desperately needed a source of funds to literally pay its bills. The country is not self-supporting and lacks hard currencies to function in the world economy. Chávez has been the supplier of the heart/lung machine that has kept the Cuban economy patient alive. When Chávez loses an election or succumbs to disease, Cuba’s economy will grind to a halt. The Castro government is in a well-deserved panic without a solution to its predicament. Both Cuba and Venezuela are governed by autocratic personalities. Without the presence of the leadership, the governments will stumble badly.
There has been secrecy in the Chávez government since last year regarding his health. There are various opposition journalists who have informants from Cuba and other locations that have been able to find out information on Chávez’s real condition. These journalists are Nelson Bocaranda @NelsonBocaranda (recently, there was a Bloomberg article about him on his reliable information), and Berenice Gómez @tururunes. In addition, there is a Twitter account with the name Fred Flintstone @fredliberty2010, who also has been giving frequent dispatches about the impatient patient.

The Venezuelan government ordered an attack on these opposition Twitter accounts. Magically, Chávez’s Twitter handle, @chavezcandanga,  and other government accounts had an incredible amount of followers within a few days. These accounts began to try to hack the opposition Twitter accounts, thus violating Twitter rules. The result has been Operation BAS, the cancellation of many Twitter accounts belonging to Chávez followers.  This morning there were 7,000 accounts cancelled.  And tonight there are rumors that the account of Fred Flinstone @fredliberty2010 had been hacked. There are also rumors that Fred Flintstone has been arrested.

The comic character of the assault on free expression would be funny, if it were not also so sad.

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