Many Venezuelans believe Chavez will return to power
CARACAS — Venezuela's vice president said on Thursday that Hugo Chavez is still fighting for his life, yet a recent poll says three in five Venezuelans believe their president will return to power.
Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's self-appointed successor, said on television that his boss “is battling there for his health, for his life, and we're accompanying him.”
The vice president had characterized Chavez's condition similarly on Dec. 20, saying the president “is fighting a great battle ... for his life, for his health.”
Chavez hasn't spoken or been seen since before his fourth operation in Cuba on Dec. 11 for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area.
The government says he has been breathing with the help of a tracheal tube after surviving a serious respiratory infection. It says Chavez returned on Feb. 18 and is at a military hospital in Caracas for continued treatment for “respiratory insufficiency.”
Despite speculation by doctors not involved in Chavez's treatment that it is most likely palliative, designed only to make him more comfortable in his remaining days, many Venezuelans apparently believe — or want to believe — he is on the mend.
“The president's prolonged absence and his critical situation have not been converted into massive pessimism about his return,” respected pollster Luis Vicente Leon tweeted on Thursday.
He said nearly 58 percent of Venezuelans believe Chavez will recover; 30 percent believe he will not return to power; and 12.5 percent say they don't know what will happen.
One percent, meanwhile, believe Chavez was never sick.
Leon, chief of the Datanalisis polling firm, told The Associated Press that the Feb. 11 poll of 1,198 people had an error margin of 3 percentage points.
He said he thought the poll reflected people's desire not to believe the worst about someone who is dear to them, just as people resist accepting that a close relative might be dying.
Leon also said he thought reports of government officials holding hours-long meetings with Chavez had contributed to the belief of many Venezuelans that Chavez will return.
“The government has sent permanent messages that President Chavez will return, that he meets with the vice president for five hours,” Leon said.