Monday, April 30, 2012

Fin de règne à Caracas: Chavez last days (we think)

I have used that French expression already twice for titles of this blog and I hope that the third time is a charm.  If anything the French are right, "fin de règne" are long, protracted affairs because the ones leaving do not know how to leave and the ones supposed to come have no idea how to do the deed, assuming they exist.  Thus not only it turns out I am allowed to borrow my own past title but I can also borrow a picture from that post which was more premonitory than what anyone would have expected then.

One way to simplify what I already described two years ago is that "fin de regne" are about the degradation of power without any clear option coming.  That is why 1776 and 1789 would not qualify but the earlies 1710'ies in France of even 1846-1848 in Europe qualify.  They all sensed that power was waning but nobody was quite sure what to do about it.  Fin de regne are not necessarily followed by revolutions or civil war but quite often one of both do happen then.  Even Myanmar today does not qualify as fin de regne as Aung San Su Kyi is willing to take power and the generals are trying to find a scheme to preserve in their hands the real power.  A fin de regne in the XX century as democracy is knocking at the door is a rather rare occurrence, happening in some African countries (Houphouët Boigny in Ivory Coast or even Mubarak in Egypt until the Tunisia uprising brought a sudden change, still ongoing as no one really was ready to pick up the pieces).

You need to live in Venezuela, on a day to day basis, to really feel that heavy atmosphere.  You need to battle for the paperwork so you can keep your business open.  Along the way you notice all the sharks roaming around you and demanding more and more of your time and money as they know their days are counted.  You need to go grocery shopping often enough to acquire certain reflexes such as piling up your favorite brand on the rare occasions you find it on the shelves.  You learn to have a 1 month rotating stock.  You need to face everyday the destroyed infrastructure, not only the roads and the constant power outages, but even some private institutions that simply do not make enough money anymore, or cannot find the right people to fix their own crumbling problems.  For family problems I had to visit one of the top three private clinics of Caracas, the one I was when dengue fell me two years ago, and I could observe how in two years service and structure had declined even though prices went up.  Simply put, you cannot get your stuff fixed, your car, your clinic, your business because there is always something missing: personnel, cement, pipes, spare parts, etc...

But these are not enough to give you that sense of fin de regne.  After all, such things happen in a lot of countries at war and today in Venezuela you still can mange, your real and present danger being going out in the streets and face the crime wave that shows no sign of abating.  No, what gives you that feeling of end of times is that you are getting used to your situation, that you know that under the current situation there is nothing you can do, that you know it cannot last forever but you have no idea when it will all end.  So you muddle everyday, trying to avoid as many pitfalls as you can, staying alive.

We do not need to discuss the health of Chavez.  All evidences, all secrecy, all staging by the regime point out to his coming demise.  In fact for the first time I am daring to predict that he will not make it to October 7.  Dead or barely alive but he will not be able to run for election.  Until a few months ago I wished Chavez the best of health because I wanted him badly to lose in October and even more badly to see him on the accused bench.  But now the decrepitude of the country is such, the inner collapse of chavismo so obvious that I think that no matter what, it is better for the country that he dies A.S.A.P.  I do not mean to sound harsh or wish him ill, but the situation he has created is good for no one, not for me, not for the opposition, not for chavismo.  All sense that he is playing us with his disease and the resentment that will start building on that will have dreadful consequences, even if he were to suddenly recover.

I was comforted on that though after the Aponte Aponte scandal.  He did not reveal anything we did not know already, that the judicial power was in the hands of Chavez and that he used it to punish whomever he wanted to punish.  We also knew of the extraordinary leniency of such power as to drug trafficking having allowed a significant portion of the armed forces of Venezuela to transform Venezuela in a narco state.  What he added to what we already knew was the ease at which the regime lived its day to day in such miasma.  See, Aponte Aponte had no regrets, he confessed to save his hide, because he felt "betrayed", because he knew very well that he was going to get gunned down any time.  such people need to be removed from office fast, and the death of Chavez will accelerate that.

The picture of the regime that has emerged since early this year is of an emptying  shell already crumbling.  The regime is way more corrupt than we ever thought it was.  The regime is way more divided than we suspected, and the inner war is to death, literally.  The regime is so out of mind, so transformed by its own paranoid brain wash during the last decade that it creates hypothetical exits that would be unacceptable in the continent such as a military coup putting in charge the narco generals; or that a crook like Diosdado Cabello could actually win a presidential election.  The continent has accepted Chavez for a variety of reasons but after so many years of bullying it will not accept just any successor pulled out of a hat, or a military cap.

But on the other side there is little hope.  The opposition candidate promises that he will fire no one from the public sector.  He promises that the price of gasoline will not be increased.  He promises that he will go to Miraflores and work as if nothing with all the thugs that chavismo will leave behind, assuming that they recognize his victory and allow him to take over.  Of course, all of these are electoral lies because even Chavez will have to stop hiring and will have to increase the price of gas.  What worries me here is that the magnitude of the lie makes me question whether the Unidad is aware of what is ahead of them.  With such a campaign they may win but they will not be able to rule and the country may even slide faster into abyss and civil war.

I understand the need to win the election but I do not understand the pretense that nothing will change, that nobody will be punished.  And that is yet another hallmark of fin de regne since when the king dies a regency comes over and is often even more corrupt and incompetent than the departed king favorites.  Though at least in the case of Venezuela this may not happen: what will happen is a tentative of the regime to perpetuate itself though any outrageous populist measure and military strength if necessary.


  1. Anonymous8:36 AM

    So much well-said summary but one thing I noticed- (I had this feeling as well)
    "All sense that he is playing us with his disease and the resentment that will start building on that will have dreadful consequences, even if he were to suddenly recover."No doubt about it.

  2. Anonymous12:08 PM

    Cubans have been expecting their fin de regne for about 51 of the 53 years the undead Castro has been around. This is a lifetime, even by today's standards. But there is no longer any sense of urgency, I think for the reasons you describe here. With Cuba totally bankrupt, what can possibly replace the regime? Most people have just enough to live on, obviously, otherwise they'd be dead. Any change now can only make things worse for most people: "where is my next meal going to come from after the change?" In contrast, we have a guaranteed source of income in Venezuela from the oil business: there will still be something we can share apart from misery, and this is where Chavez went wrong. They haven't destroyed the Venezuelan economy fast enough (there is so much wealth around just for the taking!). People here can dare to hope for a change, unlike those poor Cubans, thanks to the greed of Chavez and his allies.

    1. "They haven't destroyed the Venezuelan economy fast enough" Anon, the true marxists agree:

  3. Anonymous2:02 PM

    Daniel....very well said. A little off topic...what is this new LOT law that everyone is debating about? I wonder if you can explain it either in a post or reply. Thanks in advance.

    1. coming at a blog near you soon....

  4. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Espero que este "fin de règne" no sea como el cubano que dura demasiado, y que el 7 de octubre se abra otra foma de regne sea quien sea que gane, porque como estan las cosas ahora y el mandamás, todo se echa a perder, se corrompe, vivimos en pudrición, sin moral, sin fé, así no podemos seguir. La Maga Lee

  5. Charly4:39 PM

    "Fin de règne qui n'en finit plus, qui dure et qui perdure". No end to it, very sluggish, even the babalaos and assorted senteros are now doing their exorcisms without conviction.The sooner he goes, the better, it will be a relief for everyone. What is next though????

  6. The only way that Chavismo would allow the opposition to take power if it were to win the elections would be if they were confident that they could make a comeback and return in a year or so claiming that the new government has been a disaster and they need to save the Republic.If Chavez were in good health he might have considered a maneuver like that as a way of bolstering his " democratic" credentials and heaping the blame for all faults and failures on the new government.He wouldn't have to go back for 13 years to blame the previous government.

    Without Chavez ANY Chavista faction that wins the power struggle in their party would feel more insecure, it would try to cling to power by any means and I cannot imagine a situation where they would voluntarily cede power to Capriles.

    So what I want to say here, is that more than likely nobody but Chavez will be prone to letting the oppos win, because perhaps only Chavez could have made a successful comeback after "permitting" an oppo win.Any successor of Chavez would prefer to steal the elections and stay in power at any cost.


  7. Dr. Fausus7:15 PM

    "But on the other side there is little hope. The opposition candidate promises that he will fire no one from the public sector. He promises that the price of gasoline will not be increased. He promises that he will go to Miraflores and work as if nothing with all the thugs that chavismo will leave behind,..."

    Yes, this is surely a depressing thought. Let's hope that Capriles has an epiphany on 'his road to Damscus' and finally grasps what is important in restoring Venezuela's economy. There is still hope.

  8. galloglass10:00 PM

    If Chavez dies, elections will be suspended indefinitely "for a period of grieving and national unity."

  9. Anonymous2:41 AM

    Daniel, I am a citizen of the United States of America. I've never been to Venezuela but long ago had a Venezuelan boyfriend. He probably lives in Florida by now. I feel the angst you write about. We are well on our way to the destruction of our country. It is obvious to me and my friends but too many seem oblivious. I hope some day my husband and I can travel to Venezuela and experience the scenery, the food and the ambiance. I want to try arepas. I've been reading your blog for a few years. This last entry hit me hard and I have to thank you for your blog.

  10. In my comment above I wanted to comment on Hugo's sudden interest in religion. That man is scared to death and knows what he faces.

  11. I just got off the phone with my dearest friend, a Venezuelan doctor. He tells me how he is becoming accustomed to staying inside his home at night. How he never ventures out to restaurants nor wears any jewelry outside his home. He tells me it is now fashionable and inperative to employ bodyguards. He tells me there is now shortages of gasoline. He is resigned to the fact that regardless of the outcome of the election, civil war will erupt. I regret to hear this.

  12. Anonymous9:04 PM

    Your friend exaggerates, but not excessively.


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