Close your eyes for one minute.
Imagine during that single minute that Hugo Chavez is gone.
What do you “see” now that Chavez is gone?
After Chavez, who?
If you are living in Venezuela, and being honest with yourself, the likeliest answer is…nothing, no one.
There are many reasons and explanations as to why Chavez has endured in power a decade, and now has a majority voter mandate to continue seeking re-election again and again, for the rest of his life.
But one of the biggest reasons is that there aren’t any viable figures, in chavismo or the opposition, with the broad popular appeal and support needed to replace Chavez in power.
Ten years into the Bolivarian revolution, Venezuela’s political “opposition” has no message, no vision, no true national leaders…nothing.
Most of the current crop of opposition leaders (politicians, labor and business leaders included) were nobodies, or at best third-string players, back in pre-Chavez Venezuela.
This was already obvious way back in 2001 when Pedro Carmona, a professional lobbyist for the Venoco group, was “elected” president of Fedecamaras.
When a professional lobbyist heads what historically was the turf of Venezuela’s most accomplished and successful titans of business, you know the “institution” is road kill.
Sure, the Chavez regime since last December massively bombarded voters with a “vote yes” campaign which drowned out everything else.
Sure, the Chavez regime shamelessly loosed every political, propaganda and financial weapon in its arsenal to drive its “supporters” to the polls on 15 February – including explicit threats that any chavistas with government jobs or stipends who dared to vote no would be sacked and driven into the wasteland already populated by hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who were fired from Pdvsa or from other government jobs after they signed petitions supporting the president’s recall in 2004.
But roughly a third of eligible voters stayed home on 15 February, and the opposition “experts” I spoke with last night and this morning all agreed that most of those who abstained likely would have voted no.
But maybe these experts are whistling wishfully in the dark.
A euphoric Chavez spoke interminably last night about the grand revolutionary significance of his win, but the only remarks of any significance came near the end of his victory speech.
This year – 2009 – will be the “year of consolidation” for the Bolivarian revolution, he said. And in 2010 the revolution will launch into a new phase of “profundizacion” – i.e. deepening.
Hold the line in 2009 while the price of oil is critically low, and rebound as of 2010 when the price of oil starts rising (quickly?) again.
However, “consolidation” also implies that the National Assembly and Supreme Court this year could undertake, at the president’s direction, broader constitutional reforms than simply an amendment allowing perpetual re-election.
It’s very possible that ALL of the proposed constitutional reforms rejected by voters in December 2007 could be approved by the assembly and rubber stamped as “legal and constitutional” by the Supreme Court.
Never mind that Chavez willfully violated the existing constitution and laws of Venezuela to reach this point where he is poised to perpetuate his rule for life and create a heavily centralized and militarist pseudo-“socialist” state.
Who will challenge this abomination?
Certainly not the OAS, where the Secretary General and most member states obviously have only one use for the democracy charter signed on 11 September, 2001… which is to wipe their collective derrieres.