Luis Vicente León: Chávez gets well, endorses, or the worst

To the expert's mind, the president might be sworn in and resign afterwards

According to the CEO of pollster Datanálisis, Hugo Chávez just moved to another hospital (Photo: Venancio Alcázares)
Wednesday February 20, 2013  08:52 AM
In the opinion of Luis Vicente León, the CEO of pollster Datanálisis, the arrival of President Hugo Chávez in Venezuela fails to dispel uncertainty and queries into his absence. This is, at least, as regards his health condition, for what happened very early on Monday, February 18, "was a mere transfer from a hospital to another." Notwithstanding, León does find significant political changes, as the government and Chávez's emotional connection with the masses has been reinforced, even acknowledging that Chávez is ill. In this regard, he thinks that a presidential election is quite possible this year.

Taking informational restrictions into account, León envisages three scenarios.

First scenario

The best scenario for Chávez. He avows to his illness, but thinks he will be strong enough to take office again. "I would dare say that this is the least likely forecast given the characteristics of his disease. However, it cannot be ruled out. He might even play the game had they decided to show him as the phoenix arising from the ashes. Therefore, no election has been called, because Chávez is pondering on his return and they are waiting for the good timing for him to get well.

Second scenario

Back to Caracas, Chávez plans to be sworn in, resign and emotionally endorse the electioneering of Vice-President Nicolás Maduro. "Chávez is not as strong as to take office again; he prepares to finish off the issue of his inauguration, call an election in two or three months and shoulder his heir apparent. This is a most likely scenario."

"This has not occurred thus far because a long while could be against Maduro. In such period of time, he would be himself, with the costs associated to the country problems. An event may arise that Chávez would be able to sort out, not him."

The expert thinks that some months could be good for Maduro, because, in this way, he could be the recipient of all the feelings associated to Chávez and consolidate a leadership that did not exist previously. "Four months ago, rather than Maduro, Chávez's heir apparent in the mind of all Venezuelans was then Vice-President Elías Jaua. In this way, you consolidate a leader already elected by Chávez and put him in office because power is instrumental in part of the leader-masses relationship, and that is very important from the electoral point of view."

For this reason, he explains that an election shortly after Chávez's announcement (reporting that he was ill and encouraging supporters to vote Maduro just in case) was not really appropriate for Chávezism. "They need to nail down their leader, get stronger and solve the problems as to internal division. To that end, they need time, which may be around three or six months." "If there is indeed a strategic design and Chávez gets well, not to get back to office, but to wait for the good timing, the election could be held by the middle of this year."

Third scenario

This is the most dramatic one. "Chávez's health is deteriorating. There is no hope as to keep him alive for long because his illness is in the terminal stage, yet he can survive additional three years. Anyway, suppose he will not and doctors expect an outcome this year."

In that case, when the election would be held?

They will wait for the natural outcome; doing otherwise is worthless. The president's demise, besides prompting a new election, would become the most important emotional asset of Chávezism. Such campaign, conducted in one month term, that is, President Chávez's funeral, would probably give Chávezism an impressive election advantage. The death of a leader on top of his popularity would be mighty against the backdrop of voting. Chávez's funeral would turn into the election campaign.

León gives a recent example: "Cristina Kirchner gained 20 points as a candidate for president after the death of Néstor Kirchner. Viewed rationally, one wonders why she got such a proportion if her husband was the one who died and she was the president. That is not rational, but they are feelings, and feelings are very powerful in politics."

Translated by Conchita Delgado
The end of a cycle

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Brazil on March 13 to demand the ouster of embattled President Dilma Rousseff, carrying banners expressing anger at bribery scandals and economic woes. A banner read "We don't want a new Venezuela in Brazil."

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