“THIS REVOLUTION doesn’t just depend on one person,” Hugo Chavez told Venezuelans in a television address Saturday night. Sadly for Mr. Chavez, that claim may soon be tested. The 58-year-old caudillo, who has been suffering since early last year from an undisclosed form of cancer, has returned to Cuba for more surgery — and is sick enough to have named a successor in the event he is unable to remain in office.
Mr. Chavez’s incapacitation could tip Venezuela, one of the largest U.S. oil suppliers, toward a prolonged period of turmoil or even violence. If so, it will be due not so much to his illness but to the breathtaking irresponsibility with which he has responded to it. Mr. Chavez did not tell Venezuelans he was ill until after he had already undergone at least one cancer surgery in Cuba; to this day he has not said what type of cancer he has or what his prognosis is. Twice he has declared himself fully cured, most recently when he launched this year a campaign for a new six-year term as president. Almost immediately after his victory in the Oct. 7 vote, Mr. Chavez disappeared from view — a strong indication that he deceived the millions of voters who supported him.