With Chávez Absent, Things Get Orwellian in Venezuela

But a national strike would be unpopular with the millions of Venezuelans who sympathize with Chávez and his health condition. Toro, along with opposition leaders like the former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, say that by not providing information about Chávez's health and delaying elections, the government is "laying a trap" for the opposition. They say the lack of information could spur more extreme reactions from some Chávez opponents, further polarizing Venezuela's political landscape.

Of course, it could also be possible that Chávez is slowly recovering from cancer, and that he has real prospects of once again returning to the Venezuelan presidency, as communication minister Ernesto Villegas suggested in a statement issued on Sunday.

But information on Chávez's health has been vague so far. Venezuelans have no details about his prognosis, no information on exactly what type of cancer he's suffering from and no idea how long he could be in bed for, exercising his presidential mandate from a Cuban hospital.

A scenario where Maduro rules in Chávez's name for months and even makes important decisions on his behalf, therefore, is not completely out of the question.

Eric Farnsworth from the Council of the Americas and Americas Society, a Washington D.C. think tank, believes that Venezuelan democracy loses out if its government is not clear about Chávez's health.

"If they don't tell the status of the president, it's awfully difficult for there to be a credible election, because no one can prepare for an election, if you don't know when it's going to be," Farnsworth said. "This is another way to game the system in Venezuela to overtly favor one side over the other, and that's completely what's going on here."

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