Chavez’ supporters turned out en masse today in their outpouring of love and sympathy for their dead leader, as his coffin was carried from the Military Hospital to the Miltary Academy in Caracas. Most of the main leaders of Chavismo were there, even if the cameras seemed to be avoiding Diosdado Cabello. Foreign leaders have begun arriving, as the funeral will be carried out on Friday.Chavez reportedly will be buried in Barinas, following his family´s wishes.
Caracas and the country were peaceful and tranquil, with few reports of violence, as expected. The whole country was absorbing the news as the opposition was respectful of the sad moment for Chávez’ supporters and admirers. Even those that opposed Chávez were cognizant of the fact that the moment was historical and that things going forward could be complex for the country. It was more a moment for reflection than for expression. There were some celebrations reported abroad, but they seemed to be more in tune with the naive belief that there will be some abrupt change in Venezuela now.
While there was no formal announcement or swearing in ceremony, Maduro signed the decree declaring seven days of mourning as acting President, confirming Foreign Minister’s Jaua statement that he would fill in for Chávez while a new election is held. This clearly sidesteps the Constitution, but it does not appear as Cabello will make an issue of it and the opposition should also ignore the point, even if it is in clear violation of the Venezuelan Constitution. After all, it appears as if this is what Chavismo was trying to avoid, that Maduro’s interim Presidency could be questioned. Only a single voice from Chavismo, that of former President of the National Assembly Soto Rojas, ever the rebel, has been heard suggesting Cabello should take office. Chávez would have been proud of him.
The opposition will likely be more interested in when the new Presidential election will be held. The Constitution specifies that the election should take place within thirty days of Chavez’ absolute absence, which is quite problematic given that the last week of those thirty days falls within Easter week which is a long holiday in Venezuela. This suggests that April 7th. or 14th. are more likely dates, which should be fine with the opposition, as long as it is technically feasible. There are no signs up to now that Chavismo wants to extend this date further into the future. Any delay would favor what little chance the opposition has, but I don’t believe the opposition should be complacent about holding the election too far into the future. A little leeway should be accepted, but the law and the Constitution should be followed
The discordant note was provided today, once again, by the Minister of Defense, who openly invited all Venezuelans to vote for Maduro in order to “give a blow to those fascists where it hurts”. Absolutely unnecessary, although the burial itself was clearly being staged as part of the campaign.
Going forward, as I said before, I do not believe that Capriles has much of a chance against Maduro in the face of the sympathy and the grief about Chavez’ death. Maduro is likely to be as radical as Chávez politically, but much more pragmatic on the economy. He should realize that he does not have nor will he ever have, Chávez goodwill. His survival depends on his management of the economy. And his enemies are more likely to be within PSUV, than in the opposition, as the weight of allowing for indefinite reelection of the President and internal differences, will likely create huge strains within PSUV and Chavismo in the future.
I very much doubt it!