Update June 29, 2011: Reuters reports images of Hugo Chavez shown to dispel rumors
It is always dangerous to make predictions because the odds are that you'll likely get it wrong but trends and patterns makes it difficult to fight off the temptation. In the case of the present rumors and speculations surrounding the health and possible death of Hugo Chavez Frías a couple of factors lead me to venture that he is not dead.
1) Hugo Chavez Frías is a bad remake of Fidel Castro. His tenure as President in Venezuela has been marked by the transformation of a democratic Venezuela with flaws into a Venezuela transitioning into a totalitarian regime. Like Fidel Castro, after a failed coup attempt, repackaged himself a democrat but unlike Castro (who faced an authoritarian dictator) he was elected to office. Since then he has used all his means at his disposal to chart a course for Venezuela to become another Cuba.
2) Fidel Castro in Cuba has floated death rumors for decades. In 2009, 1997, 1994, 1986, 1964, and at other times the press reported that Fidel Castro was dead or that there were rumors circulating that he was dead.
The late free market economist Milton Friedman once observed that "The only relevant test of the validity of a hypothesis is comparison of prediction with experience.” The numerous times in the past that these rumors circulated about Fidel Castro offers an opportunity to test the validity of the above hypothesis that Hugo Chavez is not dead.
There are a number of reasons that both Castro and Chavez would float such rumors. First, it is an opportunity to see how both one's political enemies and supposed friends react at a perceived moment of weakness. Afterwards purges, summary trials and maneuvering to make ones political opposition look foolish can consolidate the regime. Second, it shifts attention from other news that could be even more damaging than a fictitious death watch were the strong man miraculously recovers or claims never to have been deathly ill with the bonus of discrediting political enemies. Third, it creates enough disinformation when repeated numerous times then when the individual is indeed on deaths door the previous false flags will give news gatherers, adversaries and enemies pause before trying to report or capitalize on the situation.
Yoani Sanchez tweeting today described the regime response when Fidel Castro's life hung in the balance gripped with a serious illness in 2006:
"When Fidel Castro got sick they lied to us for months saying that he was well and that he would return to his functions quickly."It was only two years later, Yoani went on to tweet, that Fidel Castro in one of his reflections finally admitted that he had been between life & death.As Venezuela continues its sad spiral down into the abyss of Cubazuela, a Castro-style totalitarianism, one would expect this type of tactic by Chavez as he continues to emulate his mentor and ideological guide: Fidel Castro. This is the behavior of a totalitarian despot not a democratically elected leader.