Possible Scenarios For Venezuela Going Forward

December 11, 2012


The further out in time, the more difficult it becomes to predict what will happen in Venezuelan politics. But for now, Chavismo has the upper hand on the opposition with Chavez’ decision to anoint Nicolas Maduro as his successor. As long as Chavez is alive, this decision will likely be respected by all important factions of Chavismo and this is probably the main reason why the choice was made: To placate the many forces that are likely jockeying for position and allow Chavez to be present during a Presidential campaign. While today’s operation is quite dangerous, recall the first procedure in the same area sent the Venezuelan President into intensive care, naming Maduro was likely done in the knowledge that Chavez’ prognosis is bad in the medium term.

The opposition on the other hand has nowfallen behind. Had Capriles stayed out of the Miranda race, he would be the obvious leader of the opposition. Now this designation is in danger depending on the outcome of Sunday’s election. Capriles should win easily, but needs to win by a landslide. Chavismo’s candidate Elias Jaua is not as well known and has little charisma, even if the State of Miranda has been covered with his face. When I was in Venezuela a couple of weeks ago, it seemed as if his face was on all walls of the city, as Chavismo tried to kill Capriles as a future possibility. With Chavez absent to back Jaua, it seems difficult for this to happen, as most pollsters suggest Capriles will win, but a small margin of victory will weaken Capriles and bring other candidates into the fray, with no time for primaries.

By Sunday we will know how well Capriles is placed for a possible second Presidential run, which will likely be his last, if he fails to win the Presidency.

Between now and Jan. 10th., if something were happen to Chavez, Chavismo’s plan to have Maduro be the heir apparent will be briefly interrupted, as it will be the President of the National Assembly who would become President on Jan. 10th. There could be a quirky moment on Jan. 5th. if Diosdado Cabello were to be removed in a “just in case” move, but I doubt it will happen for only five days insurance, as it would affect the unity of Chavismo. If they do decide to replace him, a losing Elias Jaua would likely be the man.

All efforts are likely to be centered on having Hugo Chavez show up on Jan. 10th. to be sworn in. If he does, he can appoint Maduro to be his Vice-President and Chavez can resign after that.

While many analysts suggest that Chavismo will take its time (months, most believe) in calling for an election to replace Chavez, I strongly disagree. The move to designate Maduro as the successor was likely made in the belief that Maduro can win (Yes, he can!) easier with Chavez alive and promoting him, rather than in his absence, which would additionally release the power demons  in the various factions of Chavismo. Additionally, since Chavismo will win a large fraction of the Governorships on Sunday, this should also discourage the opposition on a Presidential election to replace Chavez. Thus, Chavismo will benefit from an election as soon as possible.

But even more importantly, if Chavez takes over on Jan. 10th. and designates Maduro immediately as his replacement, who calls for elections in thirty days, the opposition will be way behind, caught flat footed, having no candidate and/or organization. In contrast, Chavismo will still have PSUV ready to help and coordinate the vote drive and its funding is simply unlimited.

Essentially, time is against Maduro and Chavismo, if the Presidential health is deteriorating fast, as it seems to be given the recent developments.

In the scenario of a Maduro victory in a Presidential election, things get fuzzy. A new President Maduro is likely to make few changes as long as Chavez is around. Whether Maduro changes or not Ministers is harder to predict. Given that he is expected to be more pragmatic, he may switch personalities around in order not to ruffle the boat, such as moving Merentes to Finance and separating the two Ministries (Wishful thinking?). Given Maduro’s statement that the exchange controls can be improved, it is clear that he has some strong thoughts on the matter. But Chavez will likely be watching over him.

Once Chavez is too ill to interfere, all bets will be off. Maduro will start trying to consolidate power, moving his pieces in and pushing his enemies out. The only  puzzle at this time is who are Maduro’s friends within the military. The military has too many different factions and Maduro has never been identified with any of them.

And the military is likely the biggest wild card of all. Absent Chavez, it is difficult to predict how they will react to a Maduro Presidency.

Eventually, Maduro is more likely to go his own way and impose his own style and agenda. And while he is believed to be more pro Cuban than many civilians, he is likely to go the opposite way. His weakness is that he lacks popularity, he knows that he will have to fix the economy to stay in power and only focusing all of  the resources in Venezuela, will he truly be able to do that. Beyond that, it will be his economic advisers, once he decides to fly solo, that will determine the course of his economic policies. Talk about the picture being fuzzy!

Of course, Capriles may yet win. He needs the landslide on Sunday and then to forget about taking a vacation for Christmas. Unfortunately, most of the opposition leaders are likely to go away and it is unlikely that the MUD will have a plan in place by the beginning of January to counteract Chavez’ strategy in time.

It may be all for the better. Let Chavismo be in charge of the economic adjustment to correct the distortions they created. It will unfortunately leave voters with the image that Chavez was invincible and he is sorely missed, but it will also open the way, in the end, for  a different kind of Government and different type of plans for the country.

42 Responses to “Possible Scenarios For Venezuela Going Forward”

  1. Kepler Says:

    Could be but I believe the one doesn’t exclude the other.

  2. LD Says:

    OK, but I think he is going “cuesta abajo” from now, not recovering enough for the presidential duty. But be prepared if not…

  3. Kepler Says:

    Well, you don’t need to be Marlon Brando or Robert De Niro for that.
    As a Boligarc you just need to think about your millions in a Swiss account and the possibility of losing them.

  4. LD Says:

    you are right, this is almost schizophrenic… But Maduro has to be a very good actor for that:

  5. Kepler Says:

    For the sake of completeness: it could be he is recovering for the moment, but they want to utilise the momentum for better effects on 16 December: in the early morning they declared Hugo is recovering very very fast and invite people to celebrate that by voting for their Leader.

  6. Dillis Says:

    Very solemn faces on the cadena just now, it seems borderline he is going to survive yesterday’s operation.

  7. deananash Says:

    Chavez will die on December 17th. (Maybe before, because of his operation, but if that’s the case, he will be kept “alive” until the 17th.) If he survives, post-surgery complications will suddenly emerge and he will die at the hands of the Cubans.

    Why would they kill him? Because their best chance to maintain control over Venezuela is for Chavez to be a saint: to maintain the illusion of the Bolivarian Revolution. All the rest, including the successor, is just details. It’s the story that counts. Both Castro and Chavez, in addition to being brutal dictators, have been master storytellers.

    The brutality is still there, which is why they’ll have no qualms in killing a dying man. That’s kid stuff.

    • firepigette Says:

      could happen that way who knows.

    • Ronaldo Says:

      I have been saying for years that Cubans will kill Chavez but not in your scenario. When the Castro brothers die, Chavez will go to the funeral in Cuba and get his due. I don’t care what condition Chavez is in, he will not miss a chance to give a final speech for his daddy. Cubans will rise up in revenge to all who assisted their tyranny.

      Moreover, why can’t Chavez appoint Raoul Castro as Venezuelan Vice-President and then hand over power to him? Who could or would stop him? Maduro would end up in jail if he defied Chavez command.

  8. Godgiven2013 Says:

    Jaua cannot be president of the NA because he is not a member of parliament. Even deputies who were elected to parliament but left to go to the executive (eg Cilia) cannot return. Maduristas would have to find an alternative to DC from within the current assembly ranks. They could go for Soto Rojas, an old ally of Maduro from the Liga Socialista days.
    Article 233 should be read as saying that If Chavez dies or resigns before January 10, the President of the NA should take over. This is because special clauses trump general clauses. The general clause is the case of a president in office, the special clause is the one that restricts to the case of a president elect.

    • Jaua can be named an alternate and the principal resign, he has never been a deputy since the last Parliamnetary election.

      Article 233 also closes by saying that the Vice-President completes the Presidential term, I am told by lawyers that this is very specific and overrides the clause on the President elect being replaced by the President of the NA.

  9. Tomate Says:

    chavismo and fixing economic distortions are oxymorons… They are the masters of inventing excuses and getting nothing done… Is hard to see maduro pushing gasoline prices up, alongside with electricity and other basic goods… It almost feels like a treason to the chavez brand… how will the red shirts Venezuelans accept el paquetazo?… Can maduro survive it?… Will the less democratic wing of the psuv try to take advantage of the situation?

    It might sound crazy, but the best thing that can happen to chavismo is that the opposition wins… but the wisemen in cuba won’t allow it… It would mean no more tetica in the immediate term… So, we are back at maduro handling economic distortions… and the uncertainty that brings along

  10. moctavio Says:

    That is not blood, it is a blanket

  11. Jose Alberto Says:

    Miguel Octavio excellent analysis, we just need some game theory to lay out some plausible scenarios. But, PLEASE take out the bloody picture at the front of your article, it is sanguine and to be honest goes against the national feeling today in Venezuela, when millions of people are praying to god. I do want to see regime change. Mr. Bruni, i think article 233 is clear, President of AN takes power if “absolut fault” before 10 and vp takes over after jan 10 th. Let’s see what happens i think chavistas have a shelf plan to win presidency in a case like this, something that the inner circle has figured out already. So opposition will have to act fast, however are notbthey campaigining already?

    • Bruni Says:

      José Alberto, the article is not clear at all. On the one hand it says that while the new president is to be elected, it is the president of the NA the one to rule but, on the other hand, it says that if the absence happens during the last two years of the presidential term, it is the VP. So, if the absence happens from now until Jan 10, it is for the VP to take over because we are still in the last two years of the term.

      The problem is that those that wrote this article did not consider the case in which the President elect and the President are the same person so when it split the case in two different actions for two different “ifs” they end up being contradictory.

      IMHO the interpretation of this article has the potential for trouble.

      • moctavio Says:

        What lawyers have told me is that both have to be complied with. One says that the term has to be completed by the VP in the last two years and that is very clear and important, thus, Chavez’ term can NOT be completed by the President of the AN. Note that what the article actually says is: “Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o la nueva Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Presidente o Presidenta de la Asamblea Nacional.”, that is, it says “While the new President is elected and takes over…” not that the absence of the President elect is covered by the President of the National Assembly, becasue that would not make sense. Thus, all lawyers I talked to agree that it is very simple to interpret. Maduro completes the term as required by the Constitution. The President of the National Assembly takes over calling for elections, satisfying the “mientras se elige”.

  12. Pepeganga Says:

    I keep on reading that hydraulic fracturing is leading to USA becoming the #1 oil producer in the world and not having to import oil within the next 10 years (perhaps earlier).

    That’s some scary future for Vzla, regardless of any political scenario.

    • Roger Says:

      Fact. The global demand for oil is growing and will continue continue to grow. There will be demand for Venezuelan oil till it runs out. Every oil company (including PDVSA) knows the date it will go out of business. That is the date it’s proven reserves run out! Also, Chavez or not, unless something major changes, that is also the date that petroleum based corruption will end in Venezuela.

  13. Bruni Says:

    Miguel, I am reading the 233 and it is not clear to me that Diosdado Cabello or whoever is elected President of the NA would ever have a chance to be in charge because, in this case, the President elect is the current President.

    So, if the absolute absence is produced from now to Jan 10, Maduro steps in and must call an election. If it happens after Jan 10 and Chávez is already declared President (and Maduro VP), Maduro is still President and an election must be called.

    It is only in the unlikely case in which the absolute absence is declared the same Jan 10 or after, that the President of the National Assembly steps in.

    In fact the article is very badly written, as many articles of the 1998 Constitution. It does not make sense….I guess if there is a succession problem will come from the interpretation…

    here’s the article:

    Artículo 233. Serán faltas absolutas del Presidente o Presidenta de la República: su muerte, su renuncia, o su destitución decretada por sentencia del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, su incapacidad física o mental permanente certificada por una junta médica designada por el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia y con aprobación de la Asamblea Nacional, el abandono del cargo, declarado como tal por la Asamblea Nacional, así como la revocación popular de su mandato.

    Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente electo o Presidenta electa antes de tomar posesión, se procederá a una nueva elección universal, directa y secreta dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o la nueva Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Presidente o Presidenta de la Asamblea Nacional.

    Si la falta absoluta del Presidente o Presidenta de la República se produce durante los primeros cuatro años del período constitucional, se procederá a una nueva elección universal, directa y secreta dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o la nueva Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o la Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva.

    En los casos anteriores, el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta completará el período constitucional correspondiente.

    Si la falta absoluta se produce durante los últimos dos años del período constitucional, el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva asumirá la Presidencia de la República hasta completar dicho período.

    • moctavio Says:

      According to lawyers, if the President elect dies, the VP completes the term because of the last part of the article, but the President of the Assembly takes over Jan. 10th. In this case because they are the same person. They argue that it is clear the term is completed by the VP, buttheVP cant go longer than the term and the President of the Assembly takes over on Jan. 10th., thus, if this is correct, there is one scenario for someone other than Maduro to take over.

  14. Javier Says:

    I am under an scenario where Chavez shows up on Jan 10th, says he can’t be President and elections are called for. Then although weak, Chavez will be rooting for Maduro and Maduro will win.

    • Alex Says:

      That is the most likely scenario, unfortunately.

      UNLESS Chavez decides he wont resign while alive, which is also very possible.

  15. Dr. Faustus Says:

    How does MUD win the upcoming election?

    Focus on one person, Cilia Flores.

    The wife of Maduro carries huge amounts of political baggage, corruption etc., that Venezuelan women ( the largest voting block) would be horrified to see her attaining even more political power. Focus on her,…and they win.

  16. Noel Says:

    The biggest mystery for me in the phenomenon of Chavismo and in the upcoming elections in which Chavez will not personally run is this: why isn’t there a greater pushback against the Cuban influence and why this isn’t the rallying cry of the opposition, Venezuela for the Venezuelans?

  17. Cal Says:

    This move shows the master hand of the old Caribbean fox; maybe Chavez was resisting to acknowledge the seriousness of his condition, but the Cubans can’t afford to lose their grip on Venezuela. It’s no coincidence that the mentor and the pupil had a long conversation just before the latter’s trip to Caracas.

  18. moctavio Says:

    LD, yes, but on Jan. 10th. the President of the Assembly takes over and he calls for the election, Maduro can run.

    The complicating date would have been if Chavez passed on Dec. 9th. two days ago, then the thirty days would have been completed before Jan. 10th., but I am sure the Supreme Court could have found a way to postpone it.

    You seem to be assuming that the election has to be called immediately, not so. The election has to be called to take place in thirty days.

  19. LD Says:

    I think there is a strong possibility of Chávez staying a (relatively) long time in Cuba, for a 4th OP in the “same area” doesn’t speak for a quick recovery. He will need a long time to be walking around, if he achieves that. We don’t know the details, but even Eva Golinger sounds quite pessimistic: http://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/view/80748-eva-golinger-rt-hugo-chavez-dado-venezuela
    I would think of him not taking over on jan 10th as a real possibility. But we don’t really know…

    • LD Says:

      and there is the prohibition of a VP running for president, or not? That’s why I think it would be earlier than jan 10th.

      • moctavio Says:

        There is no prohibition that I know of.

        • LD Says:

          Manuel T posted that in CCS Chronicles:
          Artículo 229.
          No podrá ser elegido Presidente o Presidenta de la República quien esté en ejercicio del cargo de Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva, Ministro o Ministra, Gobernador o Gobernadora y Alcalde o Alcaldesa, en el día de su postulación o en cualquier momento entre esta fecha y la de la elección.
          If Chávez dies or resign, Maduro would be president if earlier than 10th january (after that president should be the AN-president).

  20. exander guerrero Says:

    I rather like you analyzing venezuelan bonds behaviour.
    If chavismo is to “correct” the distortions their policies caused, they have to start leading a constitutional reform, reforms and eliminate not less thanb 72 laws which restrict the economy to behave normal, return the conditions to enforce property rights; (re)privatize no less that 100 factories in agro, industry, financial, basic industries, cement, electricity, phone companies, and many more.
    Do you see chavism doing that? I think to much work, even for the opposition.

  21. ThePatriot Says:

    Yes, I agree with the analysis you made but don’t forget about Cuba and Diosdado.. do you really think this guy isn’t going to make a move if maduro replace him? Most likely when shit hits the fan in January Diosdado, his rats and associates AKA FAN will counter-attack with some…(who knows) oh god lets prepare for the worse in Paradise.

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