Silver linings

silver-liningSo are there reasons for optimism? You betcha!

First off, with the rumour mill going off the rails yesterday, we need to keep in mind that Chávez’s death and the election that would follow may be months away.

It seems clear to me that there will be no formal change in the Presidency until Chávez is actually declared dead – chavistas would not dare declare a “temporary” or “absolute” absence while the President is still … present. They would rather swear him in January 10th via Twitter than declare his absolute absence.

Now, I’m no doctor (how many times have you heard this recently?) but there are a few things I know. Chávez was on TV this weekend a couple of times, and he didn’t look that bad. Furthermore, how advanced can his cancer be if they decided to operate him? Generally, people with few weeks to live are not operated on. As a pathologist friend of mine suggested, the surgery may have been to help take away some of the pain in the coming months.

So urgency (“we need to elect a candidate now!”) may be misplaced. We have several good options – Capriles, Ledezma, Henri Falcón, Pablo Pérez, Maria Corina, Arria, heck even Eduardo Fernández is being bandied about – and the candidate will be chosen at the appropriate time considering the reality of the moment.

So let’s all take a deep breath here.

There is something else we need to think about. Unless a bona fide miracle occurs, we get a do-over on the October election, and that is a good thing! So … why the glum faces, folks? Go ask Republicans in the US if you think otherwise.

Not only that, we get a do-over with a far more vulnerable candidate than the one we just lost to, under economic conditions that are far worse than before, and with our opponents’ coalition’s unity seriously in question.

This is a great opportunity.

Worst case scenario: Maduro beats us. So what? We had already been beaten and were looking to six more years of Chávez. There is no way Maduro will have the same political capital as Chávez, and all signs point to a less stringent version of chavista rule. Heck, we may even get the chance to recall Maduro once economic realities sink in.

Things are looking up, folks. At least that’s what the bond markets believe.

25 thoughts on “Silver linings

  1. Exactly – now it’s a waiting game and the opposition has to be extremely careful in its responses to the situation. But it also has to be ready – the Concertación in Chile was extremely well organized by the time the 1988 plebiscito came around, but then again they also had an exact date to mark on their calendars. I know the context was different, but the need to consolidate in the opposition was still there.

    I completely agree with you, Juan. A mulligan on the presidential elections might just lead to transition, in one way or another.


  2. I agree with you, Juan, suspecting that this operation has been overdramatized. (Que queee? No puede ser.) Meaning, Chávez is not at death’s doorstep. Internally, he may not be not well for the short or medium term. His mental agility may have long ceased to effectively govern (as if he ever did, before). But externally, he looks rather rozagante for someone with metastasized cancer — in the same place.


    • While there are big uncertainties in what is true or not, based on what Chávez has said it looks not rosy, in Apoforo there is an oncologist (El_Humanista, I think that is true) and he writes:
      La experiencia oncológica es que lo hecho no ha sido suficiente y ha pasado alguna de estas cosas 1) persistencia del TU (nunca fue extirpado totalmente ni fueron efectivas las QT y RT). Mal manejo del caso o imposibilidad quirúrgica.
      2) Recidivas del TU y a pesar de su extirpacion y tratamiento reaparece. Orienta que estamos ante un tumor muy agresivo.
      En cuanto a caras de preocupación son millones las que en este momento están así (agregue la mia); solo puedo decirle que en un postoperatorio entran en juego muchos factores mas allá del TU mismo. Por ser la 4ta intervención y haber recibido RT anatómicamente hay alteraciones locales (fibrosis, inflamacion, empastamiento, plastron etc. etc.) que más que el TU hacen una exploración quirúrgica complicada y un postoperatorio más tórpido (ojalá este sea el caso) esto de manera genérica; en cuanto a la intervención del comandante solo los que intervinieron tendrán información al respecto lo que pensemos los demás no irá más allá de especulaciones.
      I think it is probably the point where it goes only downwards, maybe slowly, but steadily.


  3. Nice article! I wouldn’t be too hopefull abt winning a presidential election. We just lost by 1.6m votes. The way I see it, if chavismo gets mora votes in the guvernatorial election, we’re screwed.

    As for the cancer. I’m not so sure this surgery means he’s not in critical condition. What I read is that it was an emergency procedure because if the tumor starts pushing against his backbone, he might suffer immediate brain damage.


  4. The more I think about it, the more I think the country is ungovernable by an opposition leader over the next 1-3 years.

    Best case scenario: Chávez somehow beats the odds and stays in power through 2014, and has to swallow his own ajuste.

    Failing that, we’re better off with Maduro’s fingerprints over the paquetazo than ours.


    • You think there is a chance he’ll live until 2014?! Your best case scenario is about as probable as the Curiosity Rover finding a Consejo Comunal on the surface of Mars. Oh wait…


    • I tend to agree with Quico. It is not a good scenario. The chavistas will be consumed with infighting and Maduro will collapse anyway. The best approach is patience. The time to rebuild Venezuela will come but first, Venezuelans need to fully appreciate the consequences of their electoral choices.

      Gasoline prices will have to go up and scarcity, the inevitable consequence of poor economic policy, will be evident.

      Let what will remain of Chavizmo deal with the crises they brought on. We can’t afford another seudo-left-wing populist demagogue.


    • 100% with you, Quico. Only question is whether the paquetazo is really unavoidable. I mean, Cuba has been starving its people for decades so they don’t have any shocks of the economic sorts and the Castros seem to be holding power as strong as ever. What prevents Venezuelans from going through similar quasi-religious form of Government? (people love to say Venezuela no es Cuba, but to me they look painfully similar).


  5. If he manages to get through the after-surgery-recovery-period, he could have a few months left.
    I hope he does; that would give the opposition time to get its act together.


  6. I don’t think they will hold elections anytime soon.

    This is what I commented on the Devil’s Excrement on the 233 article of the Constitution

    What this means is that Maduro gets to finish this Constitutional Period in the absence of Hugo Chavez, if he is not at all able to swear himself in. But! Hugo Chavez is the incumbent AND the President Elect. Now, there’s not 30 left days until the end of the period. My guess is that elections will have to be organized after the end of this period if at all. In any case, they will use whatever interpretation of the rules and their power over the Supreme Court and CNE to delay elections for as long as humanly possible.


  7. I believe that Chavez is at death’s door at this moment–it’s not the cancer per se, it’s the aftermath of the operation in his seriously immunity-depressed general physical condition, with rumored septicemia (1/3 or so survival for even healthy people), and even a possible next operation to remove the source of infection. As for Constitutional this, Maduro that, it’s all useless speculation. When Chavez passes, all bets are off as to “Constitutionality”, succession, etc. The only viable option mid- to long-term, in my opinion, is a transitional Venezuelan traditional Junta Civico-Militar; otherwise, ingovernability reigns….


    • Yep. I like your take. Time to let go. Start thinking of our families and ring out this miserable year with a resounding shake. Let the fresh air in.
      I still remember Wolfgang Larrazábal’s 1958 junta. Happy holidays to all. We planning hallacas, and maybe a pan de jamon.


  8. I am with Kiko on this one. Chavismo has cooked a nasty macroeconomic dish, the questions are when it will be served and by whom. Whoever has to apply the paquetazo of devaluation and gas price increases is not going to win popularity contests, just ask CAP (and now Chavez!). The real issue is measuring the more advantageous option: waiting it out so that this macroeconomic bomb forces Venezuelans to see disaster that Chavismo represents while risking a socioeconomic calamity that could forever damage the country, or jumping in now and having to deal with both an adverse economic situation and a downright hostile political environment. The latter sounds like a recipe for a very short term. I know it sounds callous (and perhaps patronizing), but the Venezuelan voter needs to realize that there are consequences to giving away millions of imported washing machines or getting hooked up with some government contract, while at the same time scaring away investment via expropriations, intimidation and incompetence. Chavismo needs to crumble on its own to be understood as a dead end, which hopefully will also signal the decline of the rentier state.


  9. Building the right narrative, IMO should be the opposition’s way to go.

    …When the economy implodes-regardless who is in charge, the finger pointing will start in earnest.

    The opportunity lies in calling the responsibilities in the failed policies of Chavismo (and previous governments) and how it resulted in the upcoming crash. The missed golden opportunities of the recent resources boom, the peculado and embezzlement by chavistas and chulos del mundo-lead by los piratas del Caribe, and the conchupancia of an ineffective opposition should lay the premises for the needed recovery:

    1 Stronger political parties with public financing in place
    2 Dismantling of the petro-state model
    3 Repatriation of Human capital and opening up of the Resource assets to foreign technological, management and investments
    4 Reduction of the role of the state to security, education, justice and fiscal policy and taxes.

    If we are good at it and manage to neutralize the myth making plan of Chavismo, a la Peron, we could hope the 15 yr. experiment in despair that chavismo is, was worth something….



    • Great point. NARRATIVE.

      The tragedy we are going through has a lot to do with the ridiculous ineptitude of the opposition in speaking to the people in terms they understand and care about.

      The adecos were great at that, but after being demonized in the 80s and 90s by their own failures and the ambition of the traditional elites and later by Chavez’s and his government, thus leaving the opposition under control of pretty-sifrino faces, the gap between democrats and the people became even wider.

      Yes, as simple as it sounds political organizations have pretty much the same problem that all Venezuelan organizations have: they cannot connect… It has to do with a lot of things: also ignorance of the real Venezuela, prejudice, sense of superiority, racism.

      We need more of those “soft” experts who have listened and worked on understanding the real Venezuelans and can develop better and more creative messages with contents which actually touch people in their gut: please, no more rock-star tours, hysterical teenagers, silly songs, dance-steps and bailoterapias and call that a political campaing against a communist dictator.

      Later that experience and resources can be used for educating the people on the very basics of economic common sense, this Education (not reeducation, people never actually knew about this) is absolutely necessary.

      However, are you sure that’s what our economical elite would want? Do you really think they would explain the people concepts that will make evident how mediocre, exclusive and lazy they have been for decades and how that made Chavez possible?

      We can still dream…


  10. Be realistic. The Chavista machine can create a “situation” (think 27-F, only worst), declare a “estado de excepción”… and postpone new elections until they seem fit… that means, until they are sure they can win them…


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