Sunday, October 21, 2012

Now what? Chavez and chavismo constitutional options

Yes, Chavez won, but with a victory that is not as glamorous as he was needing.  In short, he had to buy at lest 10% of the electorate which means only one thing: they love you for your money. Also, he went as far as starting to sell the gold of intentional reserves so the campaign overall cost a fortune. And today he admitted that he is not the same, that he was inconvenienced during the campaign (I suppose that in his mind it means that it justified vote buying since he could not go and meet voters). So there you have it, a Chavez sick, not truly popular and with money issues. Without forgetting that behind him there is a crowd of hanger-on with financial appetites bigger than ever.

Had Chavez won with 60% I am certain that right now we would be talking referendum for a constitutional assembly, or at least a major reform of the constitutions. The people behind Chavez are the first ones to realize that if all the abuses committed during these past 6 years Chavez only gets 55% of the vote, once he is dead they are toast. Now it is not a matter of preparing a soon to come succession, it is a matter of making sure that chavismo never leaves office.

But winning with 55% does not guarantee that you would win a referendum or even get a majority in a constitutional assembly. We have the precedent of a staggering 63% victory in 2006 undone one year later in a constitutional referendum that made Chavez a lame duck of sorts for the next 5 years. That is the reason why we are cruising toward governor elections because chavismo is not ready psychologically to face a constitutional process and it needs a back to back victory to push that agenda. That means the opposition getting no more than 6 states next December. Still, legally Chavez can propose an amendment as late as as the first week of November to be included in the ballot of December 16.

Chavismo needs a constitutional change to protect itself. Next year, whether it likes it, chavismo will have to proceed to a devaluation that will be no less than 4.3 to 6 (40%), and will have to increase the price of gas at the very least 5 fold.  Already it is acting to increase the price of water, electricity and cooking gas which are not very popular because they do not come along an improved service. Amen of the inflation resulting on those unavoidable measures. There is thus a need to prepare the regime against protests and the rise of a new challenging leader (assuming that they dispose of Capriles soon).

The needed constitutional modification are of two nature. The first one is to annul the possibility of a presidential election if Chavez dies. That means making the appointed Vice President the successor for the rest of the term. That is right, an appointed official to replace an elected official for the full term. Some democracy!  And preferably allowing Chavez to appoint a relative, à la Cuban. The appointment of Maduro last week was out of necessity while things sort out by themselves. In totalitarian or neo-totalitarian regimes the "heir apparent" is only that, apparent.

The second constitutional modification is to end decentralization. All must depend from Caracas and a such it is vital to implement mechanism that annul any power from local elected officials, eliminating them if possible. Chavez and chavismo had had to face two governors already and they now that this is the way to build a challenge against them, a challenge that will eventually one day win.

I let you imagine all of the turmoil ahead, and the consequences if chavismo gets away with such changes.


  1. Interesting analysis. I just disagree with one thing: petrol. I do not think Hugo will increase petrol prices in such a way until the governor elections. Then he could increase it, but not fivefold, that is way too much for millions of Venezuelans to understand.

    1. of course chavez is not going to increase gas prices until next year, probably not until he does his devaluation.

      the thing is that whether he increases price 1 fold or 5 fold it is the same. at current prices increasing less than 5 fold you might as well not increase gas prices. think about it for a second: gas currently is at a cent per liter at official exchange rate. do you think that bringing it to a nickel is going to be worse than 3 cents? as long as he keeps public transportation frozen the hoi polloi will say little. now, wait for public transportation prices to increase, and not due to gas which even at 5 cents a liter will be their minor expense. what kills bus drivers is the price of spare parts and inflation, not gas prices.

    2. Daniel, I know the price of petrol in Venezuela. I know that for the increase to make any sense, it has to be much more than 5-fold. I know it is extremely hard for bus drivers to make ends meet because of spare parts and the rest (also insecurity, literally). But Chávez might indeed try to do something to show "he sees the problem" and increase prices twice or three times...I don't think anything more. But I don't expect petrol prices to be an issue in the next year at least.

      On another: did you see about the continued gerrymandering?

    3. If the opposition does not seem to care why should I?

  2. It is SOOOO difficult to increased the gas prices. Years ago i was talking about it and the other person almost commit me to the mad house. He didn´t even considered the amount i was talking about. Very little at the time. He just called me nuts because i proposed a gas increment, period. He was adamant to say that he has the right to receive cheap gas


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