And yet you would be hard pressed to find careful analysis around, only people too happy to quote and re-quote a few cable dispatches stating that Chavez still counts on this and that (mainly big bucks stashed away for vote buying). Well, I do not agree: Chavez and chavismo woke this morning in a much worse situation that the mere idea of renewed cancer cannot explain alone.
To understand what I mean we need first to go back to the first semester of 2011 and what was chavismo strategy then, until one day Chavez disappeared in Cuba for weeks.
Chavismo was coming fresh from a coup d'etat it got away with. The electoral victory of the opposition in September 2010 still gave a huge majority to chavismo in parliamentary even though not the 2/3 so much desired. The coup was done in two stages. Through obscene gerrymandering the majority was denied to the opposition. And then , when the 2/3 majority failed to materialize the regime used the lame duck assembly to vote an enabling law that gave Chavez full powers on many aspects of Venezuelan policies under the excuse of a flood emergency late 2010. This enabling law, for example, will be used in a few weeks form now to decree a new labor law which will kill trade unions, will allow the state to name soviets in business, will make it nearly impossible to fire anyone, etc, etc... Matters that are not related at all with the emergency of 2010.
However gutting the National Assembly of its legislative and control power was not enough in the neo-totalitarian scheme of chavismo. There are still the governors and mayors of the opposition who may control a meager part of the nation's money but still enough to promote themselves politically. The example came home to roost when an efficient governor, Capriles, won stunningly the opposition primary two weeks ago. Although in the first half of 2011 it was still not possible to preview that outcome, it was already clear to see that the three main contenders for the opposition unity candidate were two governors and one mayor. Thus the strategy of Chavez reelection in 2012 had to include a way to avoid the opposition to gain more statehouses and town-halls, or at least make them irrelevant such as the National Assembly has become.
We may never know what was exactly planned then but the disease of Chavez in June 2011 paralyzed the actions of the regime. The renewal of the disease yesterday makes look chavismo like the deer in the headlights. Well, maybe I am too optimistic but bear with me a tad longer.
A probable strategy, which explained the strange electoral schedule of presidential election in October, governors in December and mayors in April 2013, was to make them irrelevant. People like Milagros Socorro have already pointed out that way and I have concurred and added some. Since governor elections could not be avoided, Chavez would be reelected first, then he would call for a constitutional reform referendum to void mayors offices, and while this took place he would still hold governors election hoping with a post victory coattail to sweep into office as many chavista governors as possible. Even if the opposition were to manage to retain its states and add a couple of them to it, soon the replacing structure of the mayoral district, appointed or nearly appointed by the central government, would make them irrelevant while still enough of a fig leave for democracy appearance. Soon a way to deal with them once and for all would be found.
It is quite possible that in the first half of 2011 chavismo suspected that Chavez would run into problems. It is also possible that they had doubts on whether they would have enough money in reserve for the campaign. That is why the presidential election was advanced instead of pushing to 2013 the governor election which would have made more sense if you really wanted to separate the elections on "technical grounds". It was also assumed by chavismo that the opposition would never me able to manage its goal of unique candidate and thus any division would allow Chavez to bag the election by June 2012 so in the last month he could take it easier if need arise, planning the next moves and maybe even, if polls were right, include a referendum in the presidential election..
Of course, I have no way to know whether that was the plan but we can be pretty sure that the calculations and strategy were along those lines. And they could have worked except that Chavez got sick in June and that is when problems started for chavismo.
When a megalomaniac narcissistic gets sick all stops for him, and also for his entourage. While chavismo was wondering whether Chavez would be alive for the campaign, monitoring any detail of his puffiness, the opposition kept plodding along. Chavismo stopped any primary attempt, any candidate appointment, anything in preparation for October 2012 and beyond except starting to pour money into the streets, the only thing that was already ready for their strategy. We even heard idiots inside chavismo saying dead serious that governorship candidates would be announced AFTER October 7, not even two months before their election!!! Fortunately for chavismo even a sick Chavez is smarter than them and he already announced a few appointments, to try to show that he is in charge even though at the price of establishing for the doubter that the PSUV had lost any interest in democratic procedure.
And the opposition kept going on. It set its deadline. It organized the primaries. It accepted its candidates. A campaign took place with debates, a novelty. A program was established and signed by the major contenders. The elections were held. There was a fabulous turnout. The winner was clearly established and received the immediate support of the other guys. And even the few problems that appeared ended up reinforcing the Unidad positions in that they protected the privacy of the people and implied that debate was allowed.
In 7 months the opposition had build a credible challenge and organized a formidable campaign team of motivated people, all of them candidates with their own campaign team tested during the primaries, at all levels. In other words, the opposition had its candidates, a program, and a an electoral machinery. Only money is lacking but for the type of door to door campaign that will be required money is not as crucial as for Chavez who will not be able to do many public appearance for his campaign.
In 7 months chavismo did nothing, watched its navel, or Chavez navel for that matter. We have no evidence whether they had a "plan B", so strongly they felt about themselves after the perpetrated coup in 2010.
Still, it was not necessarily so bad. After all whatever plan they had was centered around Chavez campaign performance. But now not only they do not know whether Chavez will be able to perform as he should to save their seats, but they are starting to have serious doubts as to whether Chavez will be around for the whole campaign. Not to mention of the psychological effect of a Chavez that lied to them by telling them he was cured when he was not. Already tonight one of my informers trying to set up some "special favor" for some permit (you cannot help it anymore if you do not want to have to close your business) told me that her contact had suddenly doubled the asking price. And that the deal should be done within the next two months.
|This way to Havanna|
At this point it is simply impossible for chavismo to organize a primary election. Not that Chavez would allow it anyway, and even less his Cuban masters who are getting tired of all that electoral waste of time (look at the renewed repression in Cuba as soon as Dilma Roussef, to her eternal shame, left Havana). And would a quick primary campaign help anyway? After what the country witnessed with the opposition there is simply no time, nor conviction, to organize something remotely comparable within chavismo. The 7 months spent by chavismo in making fun of the opposition instead of minding their own business are suddenly cashing at the door (the tortoise and the hare anyone?).
It is thus my opinion that chavismo is in much deeper disarray as you may see from the surface. In the next two months they need to decide whether Chavez will campaign or not. If not, does that mean someone can campaign for him? If not, does that mean they need to replace him? If they replace him what will they do about governor and mayoral candidates now that the Chavez coattails are not guaranteed anymore? etc, etc, etc............
And if to these questions you add that the Cubans are nervous about their main source of revenue, that the corrupt narco generals know that without Chavez they will end up in jail, that many high ranking in the regime will find their way to jail or to exile if they lose office, etc, etc, etc....
....then you have a highly explosive mix that will be fueled by new laws that will restrict even more the economy and maybe induce a recession where a boomlet was expected for October.
Hard days ahead, brace yourself!