I am facing a complicated week end and I may not be able to write much until next year. OK, next Tuesday.... Thus, just in case, I wanted to write with some leisure right now to wish you all a Happy New Year and to write some about what is in store for Venezuela.
The big issue is whenever ifever Chavez comes back alive to Venezuela, and if alive, in any shape or form to rule. Let's state it: his messianic way of ruling can only be sustained if he is able to project vigor. From a wheel chair, halting steps or whatever disability he carries it is going to be very difficult to get away with stuff the way he used to do. In a country of such willful dependency people need to know that they are going to get it. After 3/4 of our history under a military jackboot the forceful caudillo seems "normal" to most of us.
Certainly chavismo is aware of Chavez demise and has been so for quite a while. This has not stopped them from speeding it up by forcing Chavez into a campaign that he should have never undertook. Not only it was a fraud against the nation and the good faith of the chavista voter who deserved more respect than that, but it is pushing us into a multi layered crisis. First it was a fraud that needs to be paid more than just through the mere decease of Chavez. Those who stroke his ego to push him to run, from the Castro mafia to our local one, will have to be exposed for that crime (among the many others they perpetrated). And that they will try to blame each other for that crime is going to make things even more complicated.
Second, Chavez had a chance to settle the issue on his own, with more leisure, had he decided to do so a year ago. But not only his ego got into the way but so many people were afraid to lose their privileges that all pushed for him to stay. Now he had to design a successor almost in a rush, when he could not delay it any longer. As a consequence the apparent heir, Maduro, is already challenged by the military through Diosdado Cabello.
It is essential to understand that Venezuela is a military dictatorship. That so many people still pretend it to be otherwise is irrelevant now. The dictatorship is pushing itself in the open. Of the 23 new governors 12 are military or related to the military. A majority growing though each election. The military also hold some of the most strategic positions in the government from ministries to airport and harbor administration, where the money goes through. Through Diosdado Cabello they hold the National Assembly which as expected under a military has become even less of a debating body.
The military has prevailed over an always rather weak civilian component of chavismo because the army is the only thing that Chavez understands and trusts, as much as he can trust anyone in his psychopathology. And he understands even better how the bottom of any military officer promotion is always resentful of the top and he skilfully promoted those who were willing to swear allegiance to him. As a result the military in charge may be wily but they are not intelligent, not even smart, nor well prepared, nor honest for that matter as out transformation into a narco state has amply proven. That Venezuela is so run down is due to the mediocrity of the military "establishment" as the military has much less trouble to live in generalized chaos as they have the means to impose order and privileges in their immediate surroundings. Why should they care about a potholed country when they just can take a chopper to go wherever they want, at state expense of course. Why should they care about lack of electricity of water when they can have the conscripts dig a reservoir or demand the purchase of electric generators for state security reasons? The high ranking military do not suffer like the rest of us.
Now, there are two kinds of military in power: those that got rich through administrative corruption and those that got rich through drug trafficking (and administrative corruption too, of course). As far as local guilt this does not make much difference since many in the civilian wing of chavismo are delighted at the idea of destroying the USofA through drugs. The problem here is that if the civilian chavismo has blessed their actions and new wealth, the eventual reckoning will be all for the military alone. As it is always the case in decadent military regime, there is all sorts of attempts at keeping power at all costs to avoid such reckoning which now has more international possibilities than local ones in what is today a morally bankrupt country. 14 years of chavista crap come with an amoral transformation, it cannot be helped. Even the bulk of opposition politicians range from bland to spineless as the moral fiber of the country, whatever that one was, has dissolved.
The mystery, if you will, is that Chavez chose a civilian. I think that Maduro, in what was available to Chavez, was certainly the best choice. But still, why a civilian when the military are already in charge? We cannot know the final answer yet. Maybe it was because Chavez and the Castro thought that through a Civilian the colonial relationship would be better preserved? Maybe it was just a matter of Ego for Chavez that thought his glorified memory would have a better chance to survive if his successor was a civilian? Maybe the army was too divided to push forward an unavoidable candidate? The thing here is that the civilian side is in fact the weaker one. It is too radical for a long term shot at holding the country because the economic realities will weaken it faster than a military hand that will not be afraid to apply repression until it think it can turn around the situation.
No matter what happens with oil prices there is a 2013 reality that neither civilian or military can avoid. Oil production cannot increase fast enough to cover the ever growing populist needs. The price of gas and of goods in general needs to go up as subvention is not possible, not to the extent it is already happening today. No matter what cooked up statistics are shown, the real productive economy is not growing, real employment is not created, inflation shows no sign to go below 20%. To add insult to injury, the longer transition to post Chavez lasts, the longer it will take to take the measures that should have been taken already last year.
In short, what is at stake here is whether the civilian or the military wing of chavismo will prevail. I think that the military wing is the more determined because it is the one that has the most to lose. It may even be willing to negotiate with a wimp like Capriles and his friends. Then again this may not be that bad: what is more costly for the country: a civil war or "forgiving" a massive looting of the state? Unfortunately I am afraid that the civilian wing of chavismo is today unable to compromise, too ideological, too many years insulting the other side, too mean, too willing to cheat. The pragmatic fraction inside the civilian wing is too likely to be swept away when push comes to shove.
I hope I am wrong.