You know how, right after a funeral, the family of the deceased goes home and finds it difficult to talk? Stories about the funeral are usually exchanged, but mostly people tend to be exhausted from the emotions of the past few days. If the loved one passes away after battling a disease, relatives typically find a void in their lives that is not easy to fill.
Frequently, an awkward silence sets in, and conversations become hard to sustain. I get the feeling that we are in such a period in Venezuela.
For better or for worse, Hugo Chávez has dominated the national conversation for the past thirteen years. Most of the things he has said have not become true or were utterly irrelevant, but regardless, the stuff he spit out always provided fodder to keep the national conversation going.
Love him or hate him, it was always about *him*. Whatever your feelings on the man, it was undeniable that he was driving the agenda.
But for the past few months, ever since that late February day when he announced he was sick again, there has mostly been radio silence. No Aló, Presidente. Very few public speeches. Little that is provocative on Twitter. It’s as if … he’s already gone. And with him, the national conversation seems rudderless.
Think about the kinds of things we have been subjected to in the last few months. We had a Supreme Court justice fleeing the country and making serious accusations. That turned into … nothing. We had a prison crisis that became … not much. We have a Presidential campaign that has one candidate and … a void on the other side. We have international crises galore – Syria, Greece, Spain – and no comment from the Comandante Presidente, nothing to get our juices flowing about how evil and despicable chavista foreign policy is.
Let me be clear about this – it’s not that I miss him. I’m simply pointing out that the days when Chávez told us what to argue about are over.
We need to come up with a new way of guiding the discourse, of steering the conversation, of setting the agenda – one that does not involve dancing to the tune of a madman on a Sunday talk show.
The days when Hugo Chávez told us what to say are probably over, and thank God for that. Since he has not named a successor, it’s time for our leaders to fill the void and paint the picture of how a post-Chávez Venezuela will engage in dialogue, how we are going to tackle the serious mess that he leaves behind.
For years, we have been hoping for an end to the Chávez era. Guess what folks – it’s already ending. What are we going to talk about now?