With the lengthening Chavez absence all sorts of rumors are starting to fly. So for the record I wish to state that I do not believe that Chavez is about to go to the great beyond, that there is no way Cuba is working at replacing him, etc, etc, etc... So, take a deep breath, do not succumb to hysterical fits, and try to think about other more realistic scenarios: Chavez has been the perfect Manchurian candidate for too long to make much of a difference whether he stays in Cuba a few more weeks.
This being said, of course it is possible that Chavez is croaking but considering the current state of the country it is dicey to guess as to what outcome from Cuba would be best for us. The more the reason to focus on what might actually be taking place.
I think that indeed Chavez has been/is sick. In these pages I have already commented on his bloated figure, not a "natural" fat, more like kidneys failing or some endocrinology problem. Even some weird cancer requiring massive amounts of steroids or something. He finally could not postpone it any longer and needed a good recovery to be able to face his yet most difficult electoral campaign. His knee is related to his ailment? Maybe, but it really does not make much of a difference in that Chavez would campaign even if he had to hop on one leg. Besides, long are gone the days where Chavez took big dives into the loving crowds.
Whatever it is ailing Chavez he was forced to confront it face on, and naturally with the help of his Cuban advisers tried to figure out a way to use it to his advantage, crating an outpouring of sympathy that could bring him back solidly for a while above the 50% in opinion polls, hopeful long enough to call early elections if needed. That it might succeed is another matter but if you look carefully at the different contradictions within the regime you can tell that they always protect the image of the strong man, loved by his people, soon to come back to save us once again.
However one cannot plan for everything and even if we assume the cynical position that the regime also planned some problems that could only be solved with Chavez return, for his greater glory, there is always a catch somewhere. The accumulation of electricity crisis and prison riots might have been more than what the regime expected and might in fact contribute to the accrued delays in Chavez return. It would seem that there is a kind of succession war already at play within chavismo. See, taking advantage of Chavez absence, which cannot have been public knowledge among the faithfuls, some clans must have taken the opportunity to try to grab more influence here and there and within days an internecine warfare might start looking quite a lot like a bona fide succession war. Fueled of course by the regime cryptic announcements as Chavez with Cuban advisers suggestion probably decided to make the best of the surprise mess as a preparation for a great purge once Chavez comes back.
Or some variation of the theory as you wish it to be.
What is the opposition doing? Well, some cannot help but fall into the speculation and wishful thinking trap but others such as Borges or Machado are stressing the legal points. That is, it does not matter what is going on with Chaevz, the country must be kept running, laws must be respected, etc, etc... Which is probably the best strategy as chavistas really want us to think that the country cannot be ruled by anyone else but Chavez.
To be continued........ But meanwhile I cannot fail to be amused by the pretense from both sides, but for different reasons, that the country can actually be managed as it stands today.
PS: my favorite conspiracy theory on the matter so far is the one where Chavez would resign for health reasons, but name first a dummy vice resident to finish his term in office. Thus for the next few moths the dummy would take the brunt of the administration problems and sometime around next March Chavez is recalled as the PSUV candidate by acclamation. The CNE obligingly calls for early elections as the dummy promises to resign as soon as these ones are held and in a year from now we can have Chavez starting a fresh new term. Think about it if it can be managed: only good things for Chavez if he plays his cards right. Even on the international front he can claim that his indefinite reelection president for life amendment is a democratic one since it did not stop the country from having a different president for a few months. That the creep failed is certainly not Chavez fault, of course....
You laugh? Think about how Peron came back in the 70ies through the election and immediate resignation of Hector Campora.