For some, the local elections of December 8 are the last horizon. Crossing it successfully will mean the end of chavismo, at least as we have known it. For others all will be played as soon as the Enabling Law is published. Some think that a popular uprising is around the corner. Some think that it is all over. All are wrong, on these and other suppositions. That does not make me right because, well, I actually have no position. So, instead of trying to figure out a way out of this mess I should limit myself to try to evaluate the current situation. May the reader think whatever s/he pleases.
Whatever one thinks, one thing is certain, the next couple of months are decisive. Even if you think all has been played out, the coming weeks will decide the extent of the economic crisis and the extent of the repression we must suffer through 2014.
The general context is not too complicated, once you think about it. Chavismo is trying to resolve its internal wars and as such can only agree on the need to silence the opposition. The economic crisis deepens and the regime is unable to come to grips with it, and even less to find a faint solution. It seems that in spite of all of its efforts it cannot replicate previous election miracles of keeping the shelves full for at least the two months before the election so that people forget previous food shortages. But even if the regime were able to put food back on the shelves, the annual inflation for food items alone is around 70% so people will be displeased anyway. Basically all economic indicators are going red. I am at ground zero and I can assure you that every day it gets more and more difficult to produce anything, ship it, cash it, replenish stocks, meet payroll. I have had to resort to barter with my competition for raw material so we both do not go under.....
In this context chavismo has decided that the December vote is lost and that their hope is the Enabling Law. Through it, it will be able to produce yet more controls certain to fail, settle issues within chavismo that cannot be settled, make a mockery of the December electoral result though new measures to promote "comunas" that will destroy the influence of mayors and local councils soon to reach the opposition hands; and for good measure start jailing a few opposition leaders. Maduro has already singled out Capriles and Lopez, has accused Machado to be the chosen head of an interim regime, which guarantees that she will be cell mate of the first two. And we cannot discard that some last minute commotion will be generated so that elections are "postponed". Already the lengthy list of missed deadlines by electoral authorities, CNE, seem to indicate that they know this will be the case.
The regime is so decided to pass the Enabling Law that it has already started illegal repressive measures against two opposition representatives to remove them from the Assembly and secure a 99 votes vote. Be it in Spain or in Argentina, nobody is fooled: the high court, TSJ, is clearing the way for the regime to approve an unconstitutional law. And yet it may not be enough. The nervousness of Maduro is palpable. He has stopped travelling outside the country, missing the IberoAmerican summit in Panama which would have been crucial to reinforce his international legitimacy. He spends an inordinate amount of time in military barracks, convincing the army of his authority. Not that there is a coup in the making, the military is too fat and too corrupt. What the military wants is a regime able to solve pressing problems, that can avoid a social crisis because the Venezuelan army is no mood to stain its hand in blood for the sake of Maduro and his Cuban masters. Times have changed and they want to be able to travel freely to enjoy their riches acquired through Chavez buy out of the nation's integrity. It is not far-fetched to think that the army wants to retain the power that it enjoys today but through a more capable president than Maduro, a better covering fig leaf for our lack of democracy.
The opposition seems hypnotized by the prospect of the Enabling Law. Some like Maria Corina Machado want an all out defense, at all cost. Some like Capriles and the MUD do not seem to be overly concerned, so certain they are their strategy of winning on December 8. An OpEd person was right in pointing out that when Capriles says he would not recognize a law voted by less 99 he implicitly admitted that as long as the 99 magical number of Assembly votes is reached, even through coaxing and blackmail, he would accept it. His response should have been sterner and once again Capriles projects a wishy washy image that diminish his leadership in a time when clear answers and positions are required.
All in all the opposition seems to have been on the wait since last April. The decline of the country is a given and indeed in a sense it makes sense to wait for Gotterdamerung. But it should also be clear that the regime will not fall on its own, and certainly cannot be left alone to the military and the narco-generals to decide what to do with it. The opposition has a real risk to be irrelevant in the transition for its apparent lack of ideas and distaste for real confrontation.
It is not a matter of communication, of having lost the last critical TV network available, Globovision. The reality of inflation and food shortages is an ever present element of our lives, reminding people that this is not normal and that before Chavez we never had such an episode of recurring shortages. Also, that the opposition is silenced has the unwanted paradox that even the average chavista turns off official news: once the excitement of the insulting match is limited to one side, why bother? The problem of the opposition is that one starts to wonder whether it wants to reach high office, truly.
The lack of airwaves media has had a positive effect on the opposition. Coupled to local elections which take cohorts of candidates stomping the voting grounds, they are making much better and direct the contact with the crowds at a time where the chavista paid electoral help have no explications for the shortages except the ritual ones that have ceased to convince. When you stand for hours at the Makro of San Felipe, for hours, for at most 4 kilos of corn flour, and repeat next week, you may actually start wanting to see those dangerous marines to come. It cannot be worse than that these never ending lines..... And they will have dollars in their pockets, you know!
Whether we go to vote on December 8, whether we actually win, we may see this December as the final generational shift we have been waiting. Inside chavismo the "revolutionary" oldies will be confronted with the new base that was shunted in the candidate nomination process and that may be the single most important element in the electoral loss of chavismo in December. The silenced rank and filed chavista may actually be more democrat than the ones at the reins today, and as upset by the airwaves censorship as the opposition folks. Let's not forget that the official message does not reach much the hoi polloi since it is concerned more in glorifying Maduro than announcing real improvements in el pueblo situation. Constant propaganda has its limits.
For the opposition the generational shift is coming, even more if we have elections. There should be at least 50 new mayors and scores of new municipal council folks that have never held and elected office. It is quite possible that when the tallies are in at least half of the opposition new officials will be newbies, that developed their career skills under chavismo, that have just won their very first public office. And even many of those in charge today were unknowns in 1998. After December 8 the leadership of Capriles and the MUD will face a fresh new challenge just when it may have to get ready to assist the end of Maduro......
That is why I do not know what is going to happen exactly but why I truly think that the next two months are really going to be the real hinge between the Chavez era and whatever comes next. 2013 will have thus been the mere set up for the times to come, the necessary time to start forgetting the reality of Chavez, to learn for both sides that it is time to take back in our hands our destiny, or give up on it, as the case may be. 2013 was not a transition, it was an end. Transition is only starting, finally.