Chavez's days 'numbered': World Bank head

2012-06-08 11:01

Washington - The days of cancer-stricken Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are "numbered," and without his support the leftist regimes in Cuba and Nicaragua will struggle, outgoing World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said on Thursday.

Chavez is Latin America's most prominent leftist leader, and critics say he runs an autocratic regime that has cracked down on human rights in his oil-rich country.

"Chavez's days are numbered," Zoellick said in a speech in Washington, adding that if his subsidies to Cuba and Nicaragua are cut, "those regimes will be in trouble".

"The democrats of Latin America - left, centre, and right - should be preparing," he added.

In power since 1999, Chavez is currently seeking a third consecutive term as a "revolutionary socialist" despite two surgeries to remove malignant tumours. He has not disclosed the type of cancer he has or the prognosis, fuelling political uncertainty and a wave of rumours.

"There will soon be an opportunity to make the Western Hemisphere the first Democratic Hemisphere. Not a place of coups, caudillos, and cocaine - but of democracy, development, and dignity," Zoellick said.

Hollow echoes

Venezuela has been Nicaragua's main ally since leftist Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2007. It is also a member of Opec, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and sends 100 000 barrels of heavily subsidised oil to Cuba every day.

On Cuba, Zoellick said debate at an April Summit of the Americas in Colombia about inviting the communist island's regime to such meetings "sounded like hollow echoes from another era".

"Look ahead, not back," said Zoellick, a former US Trade Representative who will leave his World Bank post at the end of the month.

The Summit of the Americas ended without consensus due to a deep rift between some Latin American states and Washington over Cuba.

According to Human Rights Watch, Chavez has weakened Venezuela's democratic system of checks and balances, contributing to a "precarious human rights situation" in the country of 29 million people.

Zoellick also urged Latin American countries to use the global commodity boom to create broader and more diversified economies.

Overall, he added, Latin American economies still need investment and more robust economies, especially in local currencies.

Read more on:    robert zoellick  |  hugo chavez  |  venezuela

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