Chavez established change. Most Venezuelans won't tolerate returning to ugly past politics. Why should they? They're led by a man who cares. They've got Bolivarian social justice institutionalized.
Fall elections afforded opposition forces no chance. They're still shut out despite uncertainty about Chavez's health. It's a worrisome wildcard.
Chavez had four cancer surgeries in 18 months. Recovery from major surgery is daunting. Multiple ones create added complications. Venezuelans are justifiably concerned.
It's unclear if Chavez is well enough to serve. His longterm health prognosis is uncertain. Medical experts disagree. No one knows for sure.
Venezuelan leadership will be for grabs if he's gone. Eventually he will be. Chavista angst reflects the possibility. They want him leading Venezuela as long as he's able. Transitioning to new leadership won't be easy.
On January 10, his new six-year term begins. His struggle to recover continues. He hopes he'll end up cancer free.
His current condition shows he needs more recovery time. He'll unlikely return for inaugural swearing in. Expect postponement to follow.
Venezuelan constitutional law has wiggle room. Under Article 231:
"The candidate elected shall take office as President of the Republic on January 10 of the first year of his constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly."
"If for any supervening reason, the person elected President of the Republic cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, he shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice."
No date is specified. Dominant PSUV National Assembly members can extend Chavez's absence up to six months. Vice President Nicolas Maduro can replace him for 90 days. The NA can authorize an additional 90 days.
Hopefully by then or sooner he'll be well enough to return and serve. If not, new elections will be held to replace him. Doing so perhaps changes little short-term.
Longer-term prospects present concerns. It's hard replacing a bigger-than-life figure. Venezuelans will cross that bridge eventually. Hopefully it's no time soon.
On December 30, the Havana Times headlined "Chavez Suffers Setback, Sends Greetings to Venezuelans from Cuba."
Vice President Maduro explained. He's visiting Chavez. He "decided to stay in Havana to accompany the commander and his family over the coming hours."