What to make of the rather hurried departure of Chavez for Havana this week end? He did not even bother this time around to go through all the formalism. He announced it on cadena and off he went.
We do not need to resort much to conspiracy theories or official twitters of leaks to get our own picture.
Certainly he wants to try to meet the Pope. Why? I doubt that such a meeting would take place, because even Benedict would not be able to explain why he refused to see Yoanni but said yes to Hugo. It would be easier to explain once again the immaculate conception and actually convince people..... So we must accept that Chavez is merely seeking a health miracle and willing not only to assume the political cost at home (you cannot curse the Catholic Church for over a decade and end up making a quick Canossa scene in Havana) but the added cost of a public reprimand by the Pope.
Unless Castro meets officially the Pope and sneaks in Chavez I do not see this happening. Then again.....
The interest is elsewhere. The hurried departure of Chavez for a treatment that he could get very well in Venezuela and in all discretion (he could even get his own radiotherapy equipment in the basement of Miraflores far from any prying eye, surrounded by a tiny team of Cuban silent specialists) can only mean that he is doing much worse than he cares to admit. We could be watching the final weeks even. Or at least the weeks where he will be forced to give up power if he wants to have a chance at survival.
It also betrays the mood of the man. At this point his actions are erratic enough, and the political cost he is willing to assume (by meeting the Pope? by not resolving the heir issue?) indicate that the guy is at wit's end.
PS: as for the Pope in Cuba, what can be said? The more charitable explanation I have is that the Castro brothers have decided that the Catholic church recipes tested in Eastern Europe transition may well apply to Cuba too. In other words that visit would be part of the negotiation for the post Castro era. Poleo and other say that. But I am not sure it applies because Cuba is a castrist dictatorship, not really an exclusive political apparatus one like Eastern Europe was. The Castros are thugs trying to find a way out of a corner, not apparatchiks betting on a long term survival strategy.