By Jorge Silva
About a year ago, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez surprised us during a routine coverage at his Miraflores palace in Caracas. He appeared with a walking cane.
That was the first time he had ever shown any hint of a physical problem, or indeed any notion of fragility. A few days after that, he left on a tour of Ecuador, Brazil and Cuba where he was hospitalized and received emergency surgery in Havana. Weeks later, Chavez confirmed that a malignant, baseball-sized tumor had been removed from his pelvis, and the saga began.
I’ve been covering Chavez for the last eight years – a long, grueling but utterly fascinating assignment for a photojournalist.
Chavez had always looked indefatigable. We got used to the massive crowds, the long emotional speeches, and the permanent campaigning. We followed him as he crossed the country far-and-wide. We ran behind him during strenuous tours where he invariably broke protocol and security, always witty and improvised. We learned to guess his mood from behind the camera.
Today, things are different. As he said the other day: “Unfortunately I won’t continue to be the same runaway horse.” The times have changed for him and for us.