Monday, 10 December 2007

Who will succeed Chavez?

Well, Chavez has been telling us since the referendum he will have to leave office in 2013. Just a couple of days before the referendum he was announcing he would rule until 2051 or until his body could endure.

Chavez is not sure about what to do next. He is going from "Venezuela is not prepared for socialism" to "I will have to leave you because you were so lazy to stay at home while you should have voted for me" to "I won't change a comma of the proposal and it will pass by other means".

Like many others, I started to wonder what possibilities Chavismo might try now.
Some of the options I think that movement can take are:
  1. introduce by enabling law or other paralegal means the indefinite reelection and thus to prolong the rule of Chávez as president.
  2. create a new post of "Prime Minister" tailored to Chavez's desire and make the presidential post a symbolic one.
  3. make Chávez the big boss of the PSUV and make him unofficial rule from there (basically, the same as 2 but with a less evident title)
  4. replace Chávez with another figure as real "leader" and give Chávez a rather symbolic role, like the Queen in England (OK, not necessarily hereditary, but you know what I mean)
Chavismo without Chavez is, obviously, nothing. The "process" would have to go through a major remaking.

Both 1 and 2 would be very difficult for Chavez to do. He might be tempted to do the "Putin", declare a "heir apparent" as Putin declared Medvedev and then just sit back and pull the strings.

In any case he would either need to push for new laws using the powers granted to him by a National Assembly that is almost 100% behind him. Even if PODEMOS deputies have been declared by Chavez as traitors, they have a huge identity crisis and are unsure about what path to take. Some of them still hope for a reconciliation, but then: reconciliation is a word that can drive hard-core Chavistas crazy.

One possibility for the succession could be Rafael Ramírez, who would be the equivalent of Medvedev, but then: does he have even a fraction of the charisma Chavez has (or is losing right now)?

Another possibility could be Jorge Rodríguez Gómez. That would mean a radicalization of the regime, whatever the economic and social climate he may encounter.

José Vicente Rangel is a conservative-moderate Chavista (I have difficulty considering him a "moderate", he is just a moderate in opposition to such people as Jorge Rodríguez Gómez). He is well known and respected among the Chavistas, but he is probably too old for the job and too...cough, cough, moderate for Chavistas.

The bets are open.

In any case, we also need to ask: when is Chavez going to try to try the main gambit for prolonging his power? He might try to do it by enabling law and he will then expect a major resistance from the opposition and from a growing sector of people who initially supported him.
We will have to wait a couple of days, at most until January but most probably already before the end of this year to know about it. I think Chavismo is trying to figure out if the opposition has its own plan at all.

Chavismo might try to do "the Putin thing" by a Constituent Assembly or Constituyente. The move for the Constituyente can be initiated by Chavismo itself or it can come from the students' movement.

That last option would be paradoxical: while the students try to open up the government for other ideas, Chavismo can try to use the whole procedure of Constituent Assembly to actually pass those modifications to the law they could not pass now.

In any case, time is running out for Chavismo. Venezuela's population is one of the fastest-growing in South America, Venezuela is importing more and more by the day and oil prices do not seem to be climbing further and if they do, they might not climb as dramatically as now.

Now, whatever happens, time is running out for Venezuela as well. Whether we have Chávez or not, a Chávez-close ruler or the opposition, our chicken of the golden eggs cannot produce enough eggs for all of us.

If there is not a real change in thinking from the majority of the population, we are in for a bigger collapse than anything we have seen for many years (and our standard has been decreasing for so many years now)

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