In my mind, Venezuela’s future has turned quite uncertain. If it was so before, imagine now when so many demons must be waking up in the face of the possibility of a future with no Hugo Chavez or a weakened Hugo Chavez.
While we do not know the details about Chavez’ illness, it is clear that he has undergone major surgery. If one believes what is being said, then he had tumors removed and he will require chemotherapy. Survival rates can be good, depending on the stage of the cancer, if he truly has a Duke D or stage 4 cancer, the prognosis could be quite grim.
But since we don’t know, we cannot assume one scenario or the other, we have to look at all of them and in my mind the lead to a very uncertain future, not matter which fork in the road we take. Even worse, the most likely scenarios in my mind, can be those that lead to the most instability and turbulence in the short and medium term.
To understand the options that I envision, one has to consider who has the most to lose from the demise of the Bolivarian Revolution and thus who will the utmost to avoid such a scenario even in the absence of the all mighty leader. Without giving detailed names, these are the three groups affected the most and in this particular order:
1- The Cuban hierarchy: Not only do they lose the Venezuelan money and oil pipeline, but they also lose their only option were they to lose power after Fidel’s passing
2- The Venezuelan Military:No group has benefited the most from the robolution than this one. The high ranking military officers are up to their ears in corruption and drugs. The revolution’s demise will uncover many details about this and they will have to run, but their options are limited.
3-The leaders of PSUV and Chavez’ close associates.
This hierarchy is simply scary, because at the same time if one were to rank the power, I would say the order is likely to be 2-, 1- and 3-, as Chavez has made sure none of those in 3- acquire much power, the military has the weapons and the Cubans have the trained personnel to outsmart and outgun Venezuelans with their local intelligence.
This all makes for an explosive and volatile future.
There are three paths in my mind:
1) Chavez does not survive until December 2012
2) Chavez survives until December 2012, but decides not to be a candidate for the good and survival of the revolution
3) Chavez is the candidate and manages to survive until 2012 (There is also the possibility that he is the candidate, but does not survive. In my mind this will have an outcome like 1) above)
To me 1) is the worst possible outcome today. If Chavez did not survive until the elections are held, I feel that the combination of the top two groups above and even the third one, will lead to a break in the Constitutional order. My bet is the military are the ones to do it. Simply grab power in order to insure that the details of everything they have done been doing the last few years does not surface, but also, that they can continue doing what they have been doing.
Many outside Venezuela think this scenario is unlikely. They believe that these groups would not dare because of the outcry of the international community, Venezuela would become an outlaw state, etc.
These people have lost all semblance of having any scruples, ethics and/or morality. They will not even stop to think about the international reaction, they will just grab for power. Who? Those on top, the top leaders of the military hierarchy whenever and if this scenario develops.
This is, of course, the worst possible outcome for Venezuela, but in some perverse sense, it is also the best one long term. Because even though this may be the most unstable, chaotic outcome, it will be unstable within itself and the internal turmoil is likely to lead to the collapse of the new regime, discrediting those that side with it and allowing for the cleansing and restructuring of the military and also facilitating the turning back of many of the structures put in place by Chavez and his Bolivarian revolution.
The second scenario of Chavez surviving until December 2012 is also full of peril, because it depends specifically on the details of how we get there.
Suppose Chavez decides he can’t run. He would have to choose a candidate among his close collaborators. Unfortunately for him, he has always removed those that gain popularity around him. In my mind there are also three groups he could choose from:
1) Someone close to him, loyal, with little general support like the Vice-President Elias Jaua or his brother Adan. None of them would receive the wholehearted support of the military or the party, they both make terrible candidates, particularly Adan, who has cared little for others, he was simply “the President’s brother”, so why would he have to play politics? They would have Cuban support, but no military support. If Chavez named them candidates and he did not make it to the elections, the final outcome would not be much different than the one in which Chavez has no time to decide on a candidate, expect then a break in the Constitutional order.
2) Someone not as close to him, maybe Diosdado or Jose Vicente Rangel, who would be able to balance out the military, the party and get the support of the Cubans. The problem is that neither of the two mention or others is very charismatic and/or has ever been able to carry out a good campaign. Diosdado, in particular, was trounced by Henrique Capriles in the Miranda race, a clear indication of his inadequacy as a candidate. Jose Vicente was always a loser in his younger days.
3) Someone more “of the party” like Nicolas Maduro, who has worked the politics in the past and has wider appeal within the various Chavista factions. Someone like him might be able to keep all groups at bay better, but much like most opposition candidates, it is unclear whether they can win a national campaign.
Finally, suppose Chavez decides to be the candidate even if he knows he is not in great shape to do it. This, in the end, is the best scenario. Chavez runs a softer campaign, gets to the election and there is an electoral transition or he wins. In either of these two outcomes there will be order, it is more likely to be respected. Of course, a sick Chavez is no longer the formidable candidate he used to be. This opens a huge hole for the opposition, which now has a true chance of unseating Chavismo from power.
Of course, the opposition has to stay united, ignore Chavez’ illness as much as possible, continue to attack the lack of accomplishments by the revolution and insure that those votes are properly counted.
My feeling, the most probable outcome at this time, is that what Chavez has is quite serious, that he may not last until the election and we face uncertain times ahead, but Chavez’ cancer may prove me wrong, like all cancers do. His return today suggests that he felt his presence in Caracas was needed to deal with the different groups and perhaps to start making changes like in the Vice-Presidency.
The information I have continues to be that what Chavez has is quite serious, very serious, but you never know, so my “feeling” may be wrong to begin with. The rest, we will have to wait to see how it plays out.