Speculation over who may replace Maduro as President of the Republic were the recall referendum against him to be held in 2017 continued today with National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup suggesting that Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, may eventually replace her husband.

Allup said:

The national government is thinking, first of all, about killing the recall this year. And, if it does take place next year, Maduro would name whoever he wants as vice-president. Once [Maduro] is recalled, this person would name the First Combatant [Venezuela doesn’t use the title “First Lady”; Cilia Flores], and then the president-in-charge would resign and the First Combatant would become president.

Allup’s comments are merely speculative, and simply outline one possible outcome of Maduro losing the recall referendum in 2017. Currently, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) contends that the recall cannot happen until at least February of next year, which would mean that a Maduro loss would place the vice-president in power. However, as president, Maduro has the ability to name anyone to the post of vice-president.

Allup also spoke on the difficult position the opposition currently finds itself in, saying:

We don’t have it easy and we’ve never had it easy, starting 18 years ago when Chavez came to power and started this disgrace that has fallen upon Venezuela like a curse. We haven’t failed to get worse and worse each day.

On the post-Chavez era, Allup said:

Before dying, Chavez played a final joke as if it hadn’t been enough for him to ruin Venezuelans having looted and stolen the biggest fortune (…) he played a supreme joke which was to leave this brigand [Maduro] as President of the Republic.

Possible Diphtheria Case in Anzoategui State

An outbreak of diphtheria which has so far claimed at least 17 lives in Bolivar state may have spread to neighbouring Anzoategui state. Anzoategui’s health director, Eduardo Martinez, announced today that a female patient resident of Puerto la Cruz in the state’s northern coast arrived at a hospital with symptoms of the potentially deadly disease. Martinez said that medical samples had been sent to Caracas to confirm if the case was indeed one of diphtheria.

Martinez also spoke on the patient’s condition, saying:

The patient is in stable condition and under isolation in hospital. She’s receiving treatment. We’re also working with the family members with whom she lives to avoid possible infection.

Martinez also explained that the hospital in which the patient is being held is stocked with the antibiotics needed to treat the disease.

Diphtheria was eradicated in Venezuela in 1992, but the country may be experiencing an outbreak of the disease.

Villegas Returns as Minister of Information

Yesterday, Maduro returned Ernesto Villegas to the office of Minister of Information. Villegas held the position until 2013, when he left the office amid criticism that he had hidden information and lied to Venezuelans about Hugo Chavez’s deadly illness.

Chavez’s illness – the exact nature of which is still unknown to this date – was a matter of secrecy. Over the course of his disease, Venezuelans grew distressed by the lack of information regarding the president’s condition.

As Minister of Information then, Villegas repeatedly appeared on television networks and radio programs assuring Venezuelans that Chavez would recover from his secret illness. Chavez eventually died on March 5, 2013 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Reaction to Villegas’ return to the office has caused condemnation from opposition circles. Author Leonardo Padron spoke on the announcement yesterday through his Twitter account, saying:

Ernesto Villegas returns to the Ministry of Information. The very same who lied to the people on a daily basis about Chavez’s health. [He has] zero credibility.

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