The awkward silence

Not a peep from me

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?

39 thoughts on “The awkward silence

  1. I have been thinking the same things for months. While I “enjoy the silence’ chavista has tried to fill the space with zombies -Jaua and Maduro for example mouthpieces of Cuba. Nobody wants to hear another word from those and the rest of Chavez minions.
    No, it is time to wake up and look at the Haiti-like after the earthquake effects of Chavez and try
    to pick up the pieces and put back together a “normal life”,including tell the military to return to
    normal. First, I believe get the lying, traitor spying Cubans out -esp.out of the government and the military…


  2. What now??

    You might just start drafting a solid, thoughtful constitution with strong unambiguous safeguards against another caudillo. The relevant section of the Honduran constitution might be worth at least a look. It protected Honduras not only from a Chavez clone but from a US Clinton trying to force him back upon them when their CIVILIANS – their supreme court and an elected legislature of his very own political party – ordered the army to get rid of him for defying his own country’s clear constitional law.

    An army obeying it’s civilian government’s constitutional orders, to replace a president for specific constitutional cause with a constitutionally prescribed successor, is not a “military coup”, no matter how many woolly-eyed PSF’s and media wonks want to make it so.

    If you want more than the APPEARANCE of a just society, write yourselves a better constitution that makes it hard for the boss to rule forever without checking in with the people for your opinion now and then.

    Like Honduras, you have enough trouble to fix without the US and Cuba forcing you to keep another “boss-is-the-boss”. Write a constitution that safeguards your right to argue, no matter what the particular issues are. With a good constitution, you won’t have another goverment that can tell you what to believe (- or esle). Read the constitution you have, and notice how weak and woolly it is – how easily it can be corrupted by any popular fraud with one quick referendum. For example, it calls for local councils that can replace bad elected politicians, but it offers no clue as to who will lead those local councils and who willl replace the elected politicians. The people? Baloney! WHICH people, please? And how?

    Think abou it. If “the government” is left to decide those things, you get a caudillo every time.

    Of course, it’s already pretty late to start…






    • The problem has never ever been the Constitution, Deedle (related to Beedle the Bard by any chance?) but the men and women putting it to work. Whatever is written on paper, the people interpreting it will always be paramount. If fixing constitutions made countries better, Venezuela would rule the Galactic Alliance by now, we’ve had so much experience tweaking those! The country needs many immediate things in education, health care and public safety -amongst a zillion others- that would NOT get done if any hypothetical new Government got bogged down on YET ANOTHER constituyente. The country can be made to work with the current Carta Magna. Let’s get real stuff done first.


    • “First of all, bringing peace and order back to the country.”

      That was my first thought. Think of Mazlow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”. Once you have stopped dodging bullets, THEN you can think about finding a bed with clean sheets. Get the priorities right folks.


    • Chavismo has been in office for 13.5 years. That makes for an average of 11,540 deaths per year. Are you getting it, Arturo?


  3. Well! This is were things could finally get interesting. Where we decide what actual policies we want in terms of security, education, environment, gas subsidies, same sex marriage, euthanasia, the role of the state, industrial development, energy, taxes, UCT, CCT, etc..! Here is the chance to start having high level debate about our problems and the solutions and finally stop talking about ideology.

    I am looking forward to this…

    BUT…… This post assumes the the Chavez era is over, when there still is no certainty on that. I think it is useful to start thinking about that scenario, but be aware that it is just that, an scenario.


    • True, but don’t you think it will be much better if the speech changes, regardless of Chavez being or not being?


      • I think it would be better. But I also think it is not possible. Chavez has always established a very “emotional” debate. Not a rational one. He is also very skilled at that. It is very hard to bring it to a rational level, after it has been framed in such emotionally antagonistic postures of good vs evil.


        • I understand that has been the way all this years, but the debate level is changing with him being away, I think, and yet, we keep talking and speculating and wondering and fearing what he’ll do next.
          He believes he owns the country, and we do too, and that’s not right.
          It’s about time to start ignoring his tantrums, don’t give him so much attention in the media, in our conversations, family reunions, and start changing the focus of attention.
          Ignore the malcriado, pues.


          • It’s easier said than done. It’s hard to ignore a malcriado when people have invested SO much emotion (pro and con) for SO long in this one narcissist. If Ch.’s voice were to weaken (and it hasn’t), if he were to change his tune (and he won’t), then perhaps our collective attentions could be diverted to healthier channels.

            But such is not the case, for now. The silence is only temporary, with us on tenterhooks. In the meantime, Chavez pops up more infrequently now, but still resorting to his threatening hints in strongly delivered non-sequiturs, so as to avoid his responsibility. The latest, this past Saturday, was his claim of oppo *sabotage* of the electric supply.


            • In other words (o sea), we have been made to feel like victims for over 13 years. You don’t switch off that easily, especially when the perp is still in office, still sounding strong.


            • I know Syd. It’s hard for me to ignore him even being at thousands of kilometers away.
              But still, there has to be a way to break the cycle, there has to be…!

              One thing I’m hearing more and more often from venezuelans (friends, family and here) is “I can’t”. Without going into details, it’s like a lot of people have taken the role of the victim and they don’t want to get out of it. Collective masoquism? Low self-esteem after years of being beaten in the head by a crazy guy?

              I’m no sociologist but it’s amazing to see it specially from far away.

              In any case, I would much prefer to see people talking about the problems and ways to solve them them, than naming him such an obsession all the time.


            • estoy de acuerdo contigo — y con este último párrafo del artículo: “¡Saber dónde estamos ubicados y si es posible el por qué estamos en ese rol! Este es un primer paso para luego salir del “juego”.”

              Pero qué pasa si uno anda en delirios. O se ha acostumbrado a ello? Dificilmente va a querer analizarse para saber dónde tiene los pies puestos.

              El problema también gira alrededor de lo siguiente. Antes de que fuéramos víctimas (los supuestos oligarcas) y dependientes (los que han creído en Chavez), éramos en la mayoría y politicamente hablando, una “tábula rasa”, sin fuertes conceptos de ciudadanía venezolana, y sin muchas responsibilidades hacia ese fin. Muchos ni se ocupaban de votar, y pa’ qué, con lo que ofrecía la cuarta. Fáciles fueron las condiciones para un gran manipulador, eso sí, con la estrategia cubana, con la compra de las fuerzas armadas, y con los malandros motorizados — invitados a través del amedrentamiento semanal, por horas y por cadena, tal como le enseño a Chávez el gran maestro, Fidel.

              Nadie dijo que iba a ser fácil… I think it’s possible to change.


          • Carolina,
            I agree with what you say, but like it or not HCF is the president and the media, and other interlocutors are not just going to ignore him. That’s why I think it is not feasible while he is still around. Maybe if we had better journos or oppo leaders, but the reality is that we lack of those.


  4. Be careful what you wish for…. i couldn’t be happier the chavez era is ending but don’t think that now we can concentrate on social issues like education and business and poverty. The biggest issue venezuela will have to contend with is finding a way to maintain stability in a power vacuum. There are many narco interests that will not be displaced just because the government changed and the population is deeply divided and armed.
    i think that the defeat of chavez will require much MORE cooperation and willingness to compromise than just being united against him.
    Whether the opposition likes it or not there is a substantial support for many of his policies. you cannot expect to tell those people that things are over and there is no more money for everything they were promised. those expectations have to be managed or there will be consequences to the new government.


  5. Think about this-without Chavez around to remind everyone on a daily basis how wonderful
    Castro is and how grand Cuba is – will people forget Cuba and Castro. And for example,
    Cabello- does he really want to continue the ALBA nonsense? I am sure with Chavez around
    Cabello is a “yes-man” but, I wonder if he will grow some new brain cells after Chavez?


    • Venezuelans as a whole never bought into the Cuba/Castro veneration.They supported Chavez because of his populist leanings and promises. Diosdado is not an idealogue, he simply wants power and money. He doesn’t care about ALBA or FARC unless projecting destabilizing force helps him hold on to power.
      Cabello is a simple thug, and because of his background is more likely to negotiate an agreement with the FAN.


      • I am not so sure about that, Fred.
        Esp. the military and for example the VP and Maduro and a few more…
        Another question, Fred- do you think Cubans control the voting machines?
        And, the list of voters…
        Also, for example -the new fighter planes from Russia- flown by Cubans?
        What about the intelligence network and the militia and guerilla fighters trained
        in and by Cubans?


        • I think that you are right that Cubans have a lot of access and control now but they are there only because Chavez lets them. The FAN resent them and will not support them without Chavez. As to Maduro, he is very pragmatic and will use the Cubans as long they can deliver the election.even if Cuba gets Maduro in, its unclear what they deliver long term so that they retain control and remain in country. in terms of ideology the revolution is dead without Chavez and the populace will never go along with it if Maduro is president(not to mention that the revolution has run out of money anyway). Venezuelans are not revolutionaries, they want free social services and benefits. that is very different.
          in the end i think that the cubans are a liability that never made any sense except in the mind of the revolutionary and even if the MUD loses the cubans should be ready to pack their bags.


  6. My concerns would be with the “newcomers” to goverment.

    Structural change will not be posible if no major signals are perceived. Accountability, dismantling of the petrostate model, etc.

    Otherwise it would be a new musio con el mismo cachimbo, un quitate tu pa ponerme yo….

    No digan que no se los dije.


  7. I heard this “green” quote recently-I don’t know who said it:
    “Sustainable is attainable
    if humans are retrainable.”

    I think retraining is going to be required for many Venezuelans…


  8. I for one, will be happy to bury the legacy of the televangelist-cum-caudillo of Socialism.

    I stopped hearing whatever he said, or at any rate discussing it. I was more like dismissing it as some kind of smokescreen. A long time ago I made my mind that the guy had to go and nothing could add or subtract from that. His actions speak for themselves and are more than enough. Some are typical of organized crime. And some seem nonsensical to us, because they follow the logic of Cold War far-left extremism; they are merely harmful. That said, what we have is a military-dominated Petrostate that side-deals in drugs, an oil-narco-kleptocracy. The rest is pure AGUAJE. Aguaje the Ideology and Aguaje the “Revolution” which has turned into a grab by the current Boligarchy.

    Venezuela has more than enough practical problems to solve to talk about and act about. More than enough resources and enough people to educate, for they have to develop those resources.

    That he (and people like him) will not be in power will do wonders for the sanity and the level of discourse in Venezuela. Let’s just not be back to where we were before, let’s do ourselves a good turn sooner than later and begin to eliminate the Petrostate, practic and discourse, before it does its bad deed on the next administration. We are all getting too old to have a repeat of these events.


  9. I would love to be proved wrong, but I think all this cancer stuff has always been a scam thought up by his mentor Castro for the guy to get a good rest after burning himself out for 13 years and be in shape for the presidential campaign wherein he will appear as the Phoenix rising from the ashes. On top of that you have a bought-and-paid-for electoral council that will not play fair (why do they have to tally the votes behind closed doors?), so we’ll have this S.O.B. effing up our lives for quite a while longer. Therefore, this whole discussion about what we’re going to talk about when the guy is gone is moot.


    • Charge Chavez with supporting terrorism. Chavez has been lying not just to the world,but to the Venezuelan people. FARC are in Venezuela- now we know- a. they have spent nights at Adan Chavez’s house, b. many Venezuelans witnesses see FARC moving about,
      c. Chavez has met with FARC in Miraflores and in Cuba with Castro on a regular basis.
      AN could begin impeachment proceedings if they had the huevos- but instead they are afraid to stand up and tell the truth. Fakin liars…


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