July 14, 2012
Venezuela Correspondent Ludmila Vinogradoff of ABC, one of Spain’s leading daily newspapers, interviewed Dr. Jose Rafael Marquina for an update on Venezuela President Hugo Chavez’s health.
Vinogradoff: Chavez has shown himself to be in good physical shape over recent days. Can we say that he has recovered?
Marquina: No, his cancer is incurable, but has entered remission.
Chavez mocks the “famous doctors” who have left him for dead?
Chavez’s cancer is incurable. The tumour is in remission. That is, its size has been reduced but the cancerous cells are there and have not been eliminated by the operations. The third one was
unable to eliminate the tumour despite the chemotherapy.
So what happened then?
They gave Chavez chemo for several days and after that operation of course they were going to have a positive response, regardless of how aggressive the tumour is.
So, what is the status of the tumour after the chemo?
According to the only exam that was done, the tumour has neither been reduced nor has it increased in size.
When was the last tomography taken?
It was done on 9 June at the Military Hospital in Caracas, three weeks ago, and the results showed that there had been no improvement, no changes in the tumour.
But then how was he able to show this physical improvement in public?
The problem is that people believe that cancer patients show the symptoms of their disease, when it is not like that. Cancer patients show their agony at the end of the process.
But he is not currently in the terminal phase?
What is being commented is that Chavez might relapse starting in December.
It would appear that you were wrong when you said that he would show a deterioration in his health in July or August this year. Now you are saying it will be in December?
I am not mistaken; he has shown physical changes, but the deterioration could become more obvious as of next year.
Chavez looks good on camera, though quite swollen.
The steroids are masking his disease. Nobody doubts that he is on steroids.
Is it true that he is using fentanyl patches as an analgesic?
I do not know, but the information on the fentanyl could be true. It has fewer side-effects than morphine does. He can deal with the disease better on fentanyl without having to deal with its aggressiveness. It will not cure him but it will sedate him a bit, make him a bit sleepy. At the same time, the steroids will give him
the energy he needs for the campaign, which is why we can see him giving long speeches via radio and television simulcasts.
Will he be strong enough to campaign in the streets as he announced he would this week?
Chavez said that he is getting better, but has not shown the tomography or the exams to certify his improvement.
Will he be in a condition to tour the country as his rival Henrique Capriles is doing?
It will be very interesting to see Chavez walking for hours, visiting his vote rs door to door. I am not impressed at seeing Chavez sitting down and talking for hours. That does not require much physical energy.
But will he reach the elections in good conditions?
Yes, he will reach 7 October in good conditions. It was very good planning to move the elections ahead from December. The government already knew what was going to happen.
But isn’t the abusive use of steroids bad for his health?
Of course, the steroids will take their toll. In the long run they will accelerate the growth of cancerous cells.
Should he undergo new medical exams?
He should have a tomography done every four weeks. It is recommended that he do so frequently to know whether the disease continues to progress. I believe that Chavez has wanted to forget his disease and to give the impression that he is totally cured, continuing with the doses of steroids, and to deal with the campaign through the elections, attending to his illness after the elections.
That would be ideal, but the most likely thing is that the pressure of the election campaign will cause him to postpone his trip to Cuba. What happened in the La Vega neighbourhood on 7 July, when Chavistas and the Police prevented Capriles from walking in public, had a tremendous effect on him. This is an indication of how poorly Chavez’s campaign is doing. It is impressive to see how in some Chavista strongholds his followers take their photographs with the opposition candidate.
Has Chavez changed his image as a sick candidate for that of a healthy candidate to earn votes?
Chavez wants to show himself as healthy for the elections. There are many people who believe it and who forget that he has a terminal disease.
Many people believe that his illness was a deceit to gain votes.
Of course, it is in his interests to allow them to believe something like that, so he can emerge as a superman who has defeated the disease. But the photographs do not lie. In his latest appearances you can tell that he is sick even though he dyes his hair and says otherwise.