Tuesday, January 08, 2013
A guide to January 10
Is there a coup d'etat? Technically not yet. True, the Chavez regime has made so many coups already that one would tend to think that the actual coup to ensure that Chavez rules after his demise has already been done. But it has not, yet (though a mini judicial coup has been done to silence the last remaining independent voice in the high court in prevision of this week). Whatever coup chavismo is planning to avoid the constitutional rule will be done from this typing until sometime on January 10 when supposedly Chavez should be sworn in.
The implications of this are that 1) Chavez may actually show up on January 10 (odds below 0,1%) or 2) Chavez will not show up and chavismo will decide on something not to go to early elections to replace Chavez (that is when we will see the nature of the coup and will be able to react to it) or 3) Diosdado Cabello is sworn in, the Constitution is not violated, however the nature and date of elections will certainly make them illegitimate (I give it, believe it or not, a 25% odd).
The iron rule. According to article 231 of the Constitution someone has to be sworn in on January 10 at the latest. Period. What assholes like Marco Aurelio Garcia may say is irrelevant.
There are other articles that regulate this and that but the iron rule is that whomever is elected president after a normal 6 years term has to be sworn on January 10. I personally think that there is a stupid rigidity there for a Constitution that is "flexible" elsewhere, but it is the law and failure to swear someone on January 10 is a break in the constitutional rule of Venezuela and can be used by the opposition to question the post January 10 regime, if it has the guts for it.
How could the regime have escaped the iron rule? It could, not constitutionally mind you, but through a "national agreement". For this it would have required that Chavez admit his condition earlier than he did, that he told the truth about his condition, that he allowed a medical committee to follow his treatment , that he delegated his power to his vice president as the Constitution requires but that he avoided, and then only then, there could have been an agreement between the national assembly (oppo and chavismo included) and the high court to vote a law allowing a "provisional" swearing in by the national assembly chair preserving the cabinet that Chavez would have left in place.
But Chavez hubris could not allow for such provisions and now we are in front a potential major crisis.
What chavismo could do at this point. It seems that it is headed toward some form of internal compromise that would ensure a status quo of sorts under the excuse that Chavez may come back at some point. Maduro would stay in office under the pretense that Chavez reelection makes his swearing in irrelevant, that his administration keeps going on as if nothing.
We can thus expect some kind of ruling from the high court that would allow, for example, a "provisional presidency" of Diosdado Cabello allowing him to change ministers only if they resign and singing bills only if the cabinet in full signs them. Or the high court may be crass enough to say that the constitution is incomplete, not addressing that specific reelection case and as such they decide what is going to happen. In other words the high court writes the constitution. Writes it, does not interpret it "freely", WRITES IT. Think about that for a second.
What chavismo would do later. It all depends on how the internal struggles between the military branches of chavismo and the radical "civilian" one end up. Remember that for all practical purposes the military is the main branch of power in Chavez coalition and that we are a military regime. Maduro represents a "civilian" branch though certainly not a democratic one. Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello are equally dictatorship prone, but they disagree on the terms, the modality, tthe Cuban role, etc... The date of future elections is more dependent on which side takes over than the actual death of Chavez. But we can be sure that these elections will not be free nor fair as neither one of these clowns has the charisma to carry the day as Chavez did.
What the opposition can do. Little. First, it needs to find guts somewhere Second, it needs to send a clear message before January 10 that it will not accept anything that says otherwise to article 231. Third, it has to announce before January 10 that they will go to the OAS and complain about constitutional breach just as it was done by others in the recent cases of Honduras or Paraguay.
Let's say that I have my strong doubts, that many inside the opposition will think naively that gaining more time is good for their electoral prospects, etc, etc... Right now, any election held before a devaluation has a 95% chances to go to the chavista candidate. And I am generous. Many inside the opposition delude themselves in that once Chavez is dead it will be over. It will not be. Even if cavismo may not be as strong a system as peronism as been in Argentina there will be quite a lot of inertia and oil money available to allow chavismo to survive Chavez for a few years. Not decades maybe but certainly years. 14 years of chavismo have created a deep divide inside Venezuela that cannot be bridged that easily, even for a basal non aggression pact. There is really a very large chunk of the population that is full of ideological garbage and/or willful state dependency to cure that in just an election. There are consequences with shameless populism over an ignorant hoi polloi.
What will happen on January 10? Interesting question, no? I think nobody knows yet. Machado was telling us on TV tonight that normally for such a solemn occasions the National Assembly direction would have already issued guidelines. Thus there is the possibility that NOTHING will happen on January ten, that under some last minute excuse the assembly is not called to session!
Some heads of state have announced their arrival for the swearing in. But we do not know if they indeed will show up until, say, Wednesday night. One thing is to say "I am going to Hugo's swearing in" and another to go when the regime does not inform you of the hour, time and place.... Maybe we will get clues as the intentions of Maduro, Cabello and Raul when we learn of carrying presidents planes flying to Caracas....
And heck, even a zombified Chavez could show up.....
What can you do? Do not even bother writing a tweet to Aveledo or Capriles, they are sinking faster than what you think (though Aveledo could float better). The only thing you can do if you are in Venezuela is to make sure you have at home water, food and batteries to last you for a week. I am not kidding: the opposition will not do, cannot do anything even if it wanted to But the infighting within chavismo could spread faster than a prairie fire..... Time to clean up your closets or do that 1500 jigsaw puzzle you were given 10 years ago.