By Carlos Alberto Montaner
President Hugo Chávezâs Cuban doctors have already told him that he will most likely not be alive by Octoberâs elections. Itâs not a certainty but a statistical estimate. People his age who are affected by the aggressive cancer that afflicts him, complicated by the generalized metastasis that has spread, usually have only a few months to live. It is only a macabre average.
One of Chávezâs first reactions was to phone a friendly chief of state to tell him about it. Hereafter, he will do increasingly stranger things. Like any other moribund person, he needs encouragement, compassion, loving pats on the back.
An old friend of mine, a specialist in helping terminally ill patients die, a woman who practices her melancholy and necessary profession in a major hospital, insisted that people need, more than words of comfort, someone who will hold their hand when their time comes to leave this world. This final contact, skin to skin, is mysteriously comforting. It reduces the fear caused by looking into the unfathomable abyss.
Precisely: Moribund persons experience different fears. They fear the speedy destruction of their body. They have lived being dependent on it. They have taken care of it, washed it, protected it, displayed it with pride, and suddenly deterioration, instead of being gradually perceptible, has forced itself upon them.
People, especially powerful people, fear their loss of authority over the ego. The terminal patient is at the mercy of the doctors, the nurses, the relatives. The relationships of power invert cruelly and the terminal patient suffers the indignity of being bossed by anyone in a white lab coat or by the relative or friend who accompanies him. They are once again treated like children.
Then thereâs the fear of pain. It is terrible and has a grim consequence: The terminal patient subordinates all reality to the experience of pain, to the effort to avoid it. He becomes obsessed by pain. He talks and thinks about it constantly. The other topics cease to be important. Beset by a sharp pain, who thinks about love, responsibility or whatever? What is more absorbing than the fear of piercing pain?
Chávez says that he has little time for the huge amount of business heâs leaving behind, but suddenly his priorities have changed. Does he much care about the fate of his Bolivarian revolution at this stage in his life or death? Maybe not. He knows heâs surrounded by bandits who are embezzling the public funds and by narco-generals who have laid the foundations for a narco-state. With those people, he canât face posterity. Theyâre ballast.
Does he care today, on the threshold of death, about that crazy 20th-century socialism project that he never quite defined, or that he defined in so many ways that nobody has the slightest idea of what heâs talking about? Who is going to defeat Yankee imperialism and bury capitalism? The limited Nicolás Maduro? Old crook José Vicente Rangel? Does anybody think that Diosdado Cabello is an idealistic revolutionary dedicated to the redemption of the species?
Can Chávez leave to an executor a post-mortem request to continue dispensing revolutionary philanthropy to Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and other beggar states? Chávez is more prodigal than anyone with the money of Venezuelans. He bought his international weight with bolivars. He hands them out to foreign candidates, friends, adventurers who stop in Caracas and tell him stories. Who is going to replicate that generous behavior? Who is going to cultivate his glory after his death?
What, in sum, is the Bolivarian revolution? Chávez knows: Itâs a new political oligarchy that plunders the country with impunity. Nothing more. If Chávez reminds us of Bolivar, itâs because both plowed the seas. Everything has been for naught. His revolutionary experiment will not be studied in political science courses but in the criminology lab. Heâll die with that regret.