Archive for February 22nd, 2012

Chavez Changes Strategy, Opposition Should Be Vigilant

February 22, 2012

While many act surprised over the latest news that Chavez needs another operation, the Devil is not. This is what I had been expecting and it is happening later, rather than when doctors that I have talked to with have suggested. As a matter of fact, I was preparing to write various electoral scenarios, including a “more likely” one in which Chavez deteriorates between now and the October election. That is the scenario now.

And things will change for both the opposition and Chavez. Capriles should stay on course and focused, but there should be multiple plans B, because there are many possibilities to derail this election, if and when Chavez were to be incapacitated.

What is clear is that the medical news had to be rather bad for Chavez to change his strategy all of a sudden. The strategy from day one has been to tell the country after the fact and hide the precise diagnosis. Clearly, this has to be because if we were told what it was that was found last year in June by the doctors who operated the Venezuelan President, we would have had a very clear picture that his life span would be quite limited.

Thus, it is my belief that what was found in Cuba, which is clearly not news, as it coincides which many press reports from even a few weeks ago, including El Pais, O Globo, Veja, Robert Noriega and Bocaranda, has to be more than a simple “lesion” (injury or damage) the curious word used by the Venezuelan President.

The news simply derails the attempt to project a “healthy” Chavez. He will have to go under the knife for a complex gastrointestinal procedure that is likely to sideline him for a while. These procedures are quite difficult, recovery is not easy and Chavez has been taking many drugs in the last few months. Recall the first operation almost killed him. The expectations can’t be very good for such a dramatic change of strategy to take place.

Will he also anoint a possible successor as Vice-President? That would be a dramatic signal.

It was quite funny to have Diosdado Cabello, President of the National Assembly and William Izarra, Minister of Information, denying the President was sick, barely hours before the President decided to give the news from Barinas. Were they out of the loop? Unlikely. More likely they were out of the “new” loop, they had not been told of the change in strategy.

With a young Capriles going around Venezuela (He spent the weekend checking out the beaches in a bathing suit, as Venezuelans vacationed during Carnival) and having obtained a strong mandate, there will be a strong contrast with a recovering Chavez, who will likely be out of the limelight for a while after being operated and whose recovery carries a lot of uncertainty.

But there are pitfalls and traps along the way. From no rules of what happens if a candidate becomes incapacitated late in the election, to the non-democratic nucleus of Chavismo, there are many dangers in the way to the election.

The opposition should continue its strategy, but should be very watchful of the pitfalls and the treachery. They have to remember that Chavismo has little democratic roots, that the Cubans and the Generals have a lot to lose, that Chavismo is expert at having the Supreme Court rule their way when things are not well defined.

And until the October 7th. election takes place, there are very few rules in place. Watch out!