Dan Rather has received information from a source close to the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that indicates Chavez has end-stage cancer and may not live to the see scheduled October elections. Chavez has never identified the type of cancer that has sent him three times to Cuba for treatment, but Rather’s source says it is metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma, a very aggressive cancer. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of cancer that grows in connective tissues, can attach to muscle tissue, wrap around the intestines or grow in the head, neck and genitourinary tract. It is most common in children ages one to five and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital reports that it accounts for around 3% of childhood cancers. It is rare in older children and very rare in adults. If discovered early, it is treated with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery if possible. Once it has metastasized, spread to other locations, it is virtually impossible to stop.
Rather notes that he received this information from only one source, but he has reason to believe his source is accurate. There is no confirmation from a secondary source or from the government of Venezuela. In fact, the Venezuelan government has been very secretive about the cancer that President Chavez was diagnosed with and the progression of his treatments. The fact that he has undergone three separate courses of treatment is not, in and of itself, enough to indicate that the cancer is especially aggressive.
Chavez is seeking re-election in October, having removed term limits for Venezuelan Presidents to benefit himself. This election threatened to be his most difficult, because his policies have moved beyond socialism into government seizure of businesses and homes, with large amounts of money being spent on grand gestures like providing low-cost heating oil to Americans two years ago. He declared war on the wealthy and then moved down the economic ladder to the upper middle class, but there has not been a true “distribution of wealth” as a consequence, no leveling of living conditions.
If Rather’s source is accurate, Venezuela could be seriously destabilized while those close to Chavez jockey for power.