The departure of Chavez for Cuba yesterday in what could well be a no return trip is sending Venezuela into a probable tail spin of political unrest. The reason is very simple: not only Chavez death is not a certainty and that by itself is already a majorly perturbing element, but both sides of the political spectrum are deeply divided.
Chavez left, hinting that he may not be back and naming a successor in the person of Vice President Nicolas Maduro. Had Nicolas Maduro been an elected vice president then there would be no questions asked: we would be waiting for the demise of Chavez and Maduro could finish the term. But in the now well proven deficient Constitution of 1999 the Vice president is appointed and thus the only legitimacy it has is Chavez blessing. Granted, in what is become a religious movement this is a lot but it is not enough. To compound this it is clear that as long as Chavez is conscious he could well replace the vice president. The consequence is that all inside chavismo will pay a lip service allegiance to Maduro until Chavez passes. Then the real show begins. Let's keep in mind that inside chavismo we have powerful factions that are only herded together through Chavez ferule. I will mention the main ones: the narco traffickers, the obscenely rich bolibourgeois, the talibanic left, the liberals who think that it is time to be more realistic, and Giordani.
The second element of uncertainty inside chavismo is the potential demise date. Again, because constitutional deficiencies that date affect greatly which camp inside chavismo gets an advantage. The only way Chavez can ensure his succession as he pleases is through coming back to Venezuela on January 9 for his swearing in on January 10. Needless to say that hourly reports of Chavez death watch will be monitored closely until January 9.
The Chavez opposition is equally divided. The bad response to the October 7 defeat by the MUD leaders and Capriles himself have divided the opposition in three camps: those that still think that love and kisses will woo chavista voters, those who think that a more energetic and talkative leader is needed and those, mostly idiotic Caracas crowd, that think we should not bother voting anymore.
The love and kisses camp seem now uniquely mirrored by Henrique Capriles and Leopoldo Lopez with the problem that Capriles lousy reaction post October 7 has placed him in the need to win convincingly his reelection in Miranda. A 15% advantage over Jaua seems to be the cut if Capriles wants to be considered again as a serious potential candidate against Maduro (or Diosdado Cabello?). And this only for the Caracas crowd as the rest of the country is already forgetting him fast.
A significant part of the opposition is truly upset that Capriles and Aveledo conceded so easily the election. That they conceded is OK, that group understands that Chavez may have bought the election but bought it was. The problem here is that Capriles, Lopez and Aveledo have not been forthcoming enough to confront the electoral board, CNE, which has used the opportunity to create even more tricks for next Sunday regional vote. People have noticed. Not only this is promoting a dangerous abstention but it also allows for the search of new leadership, more energetic against chavismo. For example there is Antonio Ledezma who seems the lone leader of the opposition these days as the other ones are forced into very difficult regional election battles, made all the more difficult due to the unpredictable consequences of Chavez death watch over an overly emotional electorate. As such the future leadership of the opposition will depend greatly on the results of next Sunday where whichever opposition governor does best will be allowed to claim the crown for a presidential snap election next March.
Finally in Caracas there is the idiotic group that claims that we should never vote until the CNE cleans up its act. Of course they offer no way to get the CNE to do so but in the mean time they could be jeopardizing some close races for governor or legislative councils because they may represent as much as a toxic 10% of the opposition electorate, forcing the opposition to divert preciously scarce resources to convince them to go and vote anyway.
It should thus be clear for the reader that the odds of Venezuela entering a long unstable political period are high. Part of the dismal Chavez inheritance that we will all have to pay for.