Big news today as PSUV moved to expel the popular, long-time independent governor of Monagas State, José Gregorio “El Gato” Briceño, from its ranks for the sin of prioritizing his voters’ health and safety over the line handed down by de facto President Diosdado Cabello.
The backstory here is complex, but the final straw seems to have been Briceño’s refusal to allow water still polluted by the oil spill in the Guarapiche river to be pumped through Maturín’s municipal drinking water system. The Central Government’s insistence on passing off potentially cancer-causing water through to people’s homes constitutes its own kind of criminality; not content with that, they’re now punishing the guy who refused to let it happen.
The decision to boot El Gato is the first clearly visible instance of de facto president Cabello trying and failing to keep party discipline in Chávez’s absence. My working hypothesis is that this trickle of dissent is going to grow into a flood as Chávez’s condition deteriorates over the coming months.
If he hopes to steal the mantle of Stability Candidate, times like this are critical to the success of Henrique Capriles. Because Capriles needs people like el Gato Briceño to believe there’s life after the Talanquera jump. He needs to lower the costs of switching sides, and portray himself as a safe harbor for the losers from PSUV’s faction wars.
If he plays it well, he’ll not just be bolstering his own case as the Stability Candidate, but he’ll be helping to quicken and deepen the brewing defection cascade.
If HCR is worth his salt, look for him to share a Maturín stage with Briceño in the coming days.