July 18, 2011

Hugo Chavez returns home amid reports of 'botched' surgery in Cuba

Originally published July 5 at The American Thinker blog

By David Paulin

Hugo Chavez made a surprise return to Venezuela on Monday, helping to ease political uncertainty that he will be unable to govern as he battles cancer.

"Now I'm going to get some rest," Chavez said.

How much rest? And how serious is Chavez's cancer? Well, neither Cuba nor Venezuela's governments have said much about that; not surprising given that authoritarian regimes are invariably closed-mouthed regarding the health of their leaders.

Meanwhile, a Spanish daily newspaper claims to have gained access to a Venezuelan medical report that sheds light on Chavez's medical treatment -- or mistreatment -- in Cuba for what it said turned out to be colon cancer.

In a July 2 article, El Periodico reported that a Cuban physician botched Chavez's first surgery -- "erroneously" treating him only for a "pelvic abscess" instead of for a cancerous tumor. A "few days later, the injury to his (cancerous) tumor fistulized," spreading an infection to the rest of his body, El Periodico explained. With Chavez in serious condition, Cuba then flew in a Spanish surgeon from Madrid to perform a second surgery.

According to El Periodico, Chavez's "colon cancer...has perforated the intestinal wall and provoked an abdominal infection." It added: "The president, for a minimum of three months, will have to have a colostomy."

Chavez's Spanish surgeon may have been José Luis García Sabrido, chief of surgery of Gregorio Marañón Hospital of Madrid, El Periodico said; however, the paper noted it could not confirm that. García once operated on Fidel Castro -- surgery that apparently was needed after Cuban physicians botched an earlier surgery on Castro, according to some accounts.

Most ominously for Chavez, El Periodico said he "will be unable to receive chemotherapy because the first (surgical) intervention prevents it." Chavez's condition is "serious" because of the possibility that the tumor has produced a metastasis" (spread cancer cells) due to the first, inappropriate surgery.

Despite El Periodico's remarks about chemotherapy, Chavez nevertheless hinted he was indeed receiving it -- during remarks he delivered during a TV appearance on Venezuela television last Thursday. Chavez admitted for the first time he had cancer but failed to elaborate on the type or stage of his cancer.

In Venezuela, Chavez will reportedly be treated in a military hospital. It's not surprising the 56-year-old Chavez would prefer a military hospital over a public hospital. Under Chavez, Venezuela's public health-care system has undergone a major "Cubanization," leading to what has been described as a collapse of public health care. (For more on that, see an American Thinker article that was based on U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.)

Venezuela, of course, has private hospitals, and I can attest that the ones I visited, when living in Venezuela during the 1990s, were first-class. However, many of Venezuela's top physicians -- perhaps including my own -- have no doubt left Venezuela as the country's economic and political situation has deteriorated during 12 years of Chavez's mismanagement and introduction of "21 Century socialism" -- during which large segments of the economy have been nationalized. No doubt, Chavez's anti-Semitism also drove off many of Venezuela's top physicians who are Jewish, perhaps including my own.

Some political observers speculate that Chavez will now be undertaking a shake-up of his cabinet. Since Chavez surrounds himself with "yes men," he might want to find a credible successor to take over -- in case he's unable to return to his regular TV and radio addresses that often ramble on for hours.

For a rough English-language translation of the article in El Periodico, click here. Below is a YouTube clip from the Associated Press showing Chavez returning home from Cuba.

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