Transition Launch Reax: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

CANCILLER DE VENEZUELA NICOLAS MADUROSomething old: Two days before October’s vote I wrote,

How sick Chávez may be is impossible to say. But his bout with cancer inevitably put his supporters in mind of his mortality. Chávez has always been more popular than the government he leads, and Venezuelans intuit that the president may not be able to serve out another six year term. When the big guy is not around anymore, what will be left behind are the institutions he has created. As it turns out they, too, are bloated, lumbering beasts, stricken by corruption that’s metastasized out of all control.

Nice to feel prophetic once in a while.

Something new: I really am surprised Chávez was as explicit and clear as he was in naming Maduro as his no-doubt-about-it successor. I’d always figured the guy’s ego would just be too big for that, and he’d leave a succession mess behind. By naming a dauphin very publicly and very explicitly, Chávez lowers the chances for chaos and an all out Battle Royale for power after he’s gone. It’s shocking because it’s responsible: here’s Chávez looking forward to a time when he’s not around and thinking through the best way to keep the country governable. Après-moi, le stable, orderly succession?! Now I’ve seen it all…

Something borrowed: It’s impossible to imagine Chávez’s decision to return from Cuba for a few hours purely to anoint Maduro was done without Fidel’s advice and consent. Fidel, after all, knows a thing or two about orchestrating successions. That tells me a couple of thing. One: Maduro is the guy the Cubans think is most likely to keep the oil spigot open. Two: now we’re not just borrowing ice cream brands from the Cubans, but presidential selection methods: in a very real sense Venezuela’s next president has now been chosen by Fidel Castro.

Something blue: If you listen closely, there was some ambiguity in his statement about what may trigger a new election. His death would do so, of course, but he left himself plenty of room to step aside earlier: “si se presentara alguna circunstancia sobrevenida que a mí me inhabilite para continuar al frente de la Presidencia de la República”. It may be that he figures he has, say 3-6 months left (caveat: doctors are notoriously bad at estimating these kinds of figures) and he’d prefer to step down well before he dies so he can actually campaign for Maduro in person. With the government’s propaganda machine cranked up to 11 and Chávez starring personally in Maduro’s 30-second spots, its very far from clear to me that Maduro would lose.

40 thoughts on “Transition Launch Reax: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

  1. Even though it’s been only 2 months since the Presidential election, will the changing economic conditions in Venezuela play any role in a new election? Any thoughts on this?

  2. You have a point, easy it won’t be… But he should have thought of this earlier, maybe he doesn’t recover anymore (we still don’t know what are the compromised organ(-s)) or couldn’t do a campaign with Maduro. Maybe he can, but probably the best time would have been the last election… I see that relatively optimistic.

  3. Quico, would change ‘Fidel’ to ‘Cubans’ because not sure Fidel making decisions. The other thing to remember is the perpetual electoral ace up their sleeve: Smartmatic. CHavismo is playing with a loaded deck. They have the tools and it seems the time. The Cubans are the undisputed experts at simmering just below the radar. It’s all a matter of priorities and the USA has their hands full.

  4. “…he’d prefer to step down well before he dies so he can actually campaign for Maduro in person.”

    He hardly do it so for himself…

    I think God will grant him what he wished all along: to be president until his last day on Earth. He will not step down.

  5. >It’s shocking because it’s responsible<
    until dic. 16 has come and gone –
    after which it will be business as usual. The putdowns and insults will again become the order of the day.

  6. With Chavez gone, the MUD has to make inroads into Chavista’s institutions, like the CNE and the military, that with Chavez were impossible to access.

    Without Chavez the MUD has to make sure that the CNE is fair, that the REP is clean, that the machines are clean, that the campaign is fair, that the plan republica works properly. If not, well, be prepared for more hardship.

    Without Chavez the MUD has to get through the cracks that will surely open up.

    PD: Quico, yo creia que estabas comiendo flor en Kyoto ;)

  7. Does this mean I will have to call it Cubazuela, like the reaccionaries?

    You know, one of those guys gave me shit once for wearing a cuban military-style cap at a marcha once (no insignia, just the style).

    Maybe I’ll just turn chavista.

  8. It still won’t be easy. It will be easier than before. But not easy. I hope that those who are still in opposition are by now battle hardened.

    • Very true. The fact that the October election was within 10 points of Chavez the demigod is very promising. Still, as FT and others remind us it all comes down to who controls the oil and can spread all that money around come election time. Hopefully Maduro will not be able to bank on any personal charisma (he has the charisma of a stump as far as I’m concerned) and this will make any potential future election more competitive.

  9. 1) Something New: Chavez only wants to keep his Family from justifiably being prosecuted as crooks; Country governability has nothing to do with it; 2) Something Borrowed: He returned mainly to put his Venezuelan personal affairs in order: you take this 100m hectare finca, you get that numbered bank account, etc.; 3) Something Blue: He may well not survive the coming operation, and certainly only in bad shape. He will only step down if he is a vegetable, or worse.

  10. Under the circumstances, I doubt Chavez actively campaigning for Maduro, is a) possible or b) beneficial to Maduro. I doubt it possible due to how diminished he already is. I don’t think it would be beneficial as people need to get to know Maduro if they are going to vote for him. So far he has been a rather grey figure behind Chávez with very little public exposure. In the hyper mediatic politics of today he seems like mute puppet compared to Chavez. Chavez speaking for him wouldn’t help him in this matter.

    Chavez ambition wouldn’t let him prepare anyone to become his successor and thus he changed the constitution so he could be reelected forever. But life, full of irony, let him have one more reelection but not enjoy it, and now his movement is forced to run with an unprepared successor.

  11. “… in a very real sense Venezuela’s next president has now been chosen by Fidel Castro.”
    La única noticia reseñable del día.
    In other words, Venezuela is now unashamedly become Cubazuela for all the world to see.
    The rest – “… I’d always figured the guy’s ego would just be too big for that… It’s shocking because it’s responsible…” – is delusional BS. Of the kind that pampers to that misdirected sense of ‘orgullo patrio’ Venezuelans of all political denominations so easily fall for.
    Truth is, Venezuela under Chávez has mortgaged not only its only source of income, but also its sovereignty and independence.
    The sooner the opposition takes notice of this, the better. (It’s mind-boggling, by the way, the fact that it never ever dared take public notice before.)
    .

  12. I agree that the surprise here is that he named a successor. What is odd -and characteristic- is how little he did to explain his choice or introduce him. Even at the end it is all about Chavez.

  13. If elections are called, who would the opposition run with? Capriles? What if he looses Miranda? New primaries? MUD chooses a candidate in cogollo? Using polls? Has this scenario been discussed?

  14. Regarding the time Chavez has left (on Earth, not as a President) he hasn’t lost weight yet. When cancer is widely spread it causes considerable weigh loss before it kills you, unless it catches a vital organ first.
    What else kills cancer patients? Intense chemotherapy, surgery when the body is too weak, infections after surgery, high doses of certain medications…
    My point: he might have some time left, he doesn’t look skinny.

  15. One thing about Maduro, could he play the role Balaguer played after Chapita? I know I may be hoping for way too much…

  16. Quico, don’t feel so prophetic. Remember about you wrote only few days ago where you claim that the most likely scenario would be a “chaotic scramble for power”. It seems to me that the transition is now well defined. At the very least, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be chaotic.Of course, this doesn’t mean that this all situation is going to lead to a oppo-led government.

  17. “I really am surprised Chávez was as explicit and clear as he was in naming Maduro as his no-doubt-about-it successor. I’d always figured the guy’s ego would just be too big for that, and he’d leave a succession mess behind. By naming a dauphin very publicly and very explicitly, Chávez lowers the chances for chaos and an all out Battle Royale for power after he’s gone.”

    I think you are being a little naive. This announcement is obviously a signal to the inside of chavismo’s power structures, but it is not as clear as you think. The prominent role played by cabello for instance is very troubling. Chavez seems to be betting on a sort of two-sided power sharing agreement. I am not sure how long this could last after (and if) the boss is gone. To me all this means very uncertain and difficult times ahead.

  18. Paraphrasing THE BEATLES:

    “All you need is blood /tarararara / All you need is blood / tarararara / Blood, blood, blood / blood is all you need!”.

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