CARACAS, Saturday December 15, 2012 | Update

Carlos Blanco's A Time to Talk, released on December 9

"Civilians are obliged to lead the resolution of the impending crisis"

Saturday December 15, 2012  12:00 AM

Intermittent Presidency

This column does not provide home medical diagnosis services, but in Venezuela, there could be new presidential elections if the incumbent president lacks the conditions to permanently fulfill his functions. His frequent absence indicates that he will have to devote more and more time to take care of his health, even more if he only trusts in Doctor Castro's Cabinet. His reappearances precede new disappearances. His health condition is demanding and, without risking making any prognosis, it seems clear that he will increasingly neglect his presidential duties. By the way, Elías Jaua's promoting himself as a candidate for Governor in Miranda State saying that the state needs a full-time governor -in Jaua's opinion, Capriles would not be that- and not realizing that his argument is weird when his boss is a part-time president, who only works in holidays and days of obligation, is hideous.

EFFECTS OF THE ABSENCE. Chávez is not present even when he is. He can no longer play the role of president as if he was the foreman of a plantation, which is how he understands it. Little by little, he is becoming an elusive reference for his followers: his decision making ability is diminished, either because he is busy taking care of other affairs, or because his subordinates are now making decisions in terms of issues and offices; with this, they have slowly and in a sustained manner created their own internal clans, with resources and ideas on how to manage the heritage that is now mutely being disputed.

Chávez has transmuted into an excuse. Everything is done in his name, without him even knowing it. The country's mass deinstitutionalization has rendered laws, cultural patterns, organizational customs, and values worthless; only the boss' decisions are worthwhile, and now, decisions of those who want to succeed him.

This periodical absence of Chávez is not useful to face the economic-financial, political and social crisis that the very mess he created has propitiated. Somebody has to do it and, for this reason, the boss' disappearance once he has fulfilled his mission as aircraft carrier can give rise to the conditions for him to retire to the "dry dock" to make major repairs. Let's make clear that the talk here is not the president's absolute absence, but his intermittent absence that, in practical terms, becomes absolute. Under these conditions, a new election will be the order of the day. None of his right-hand men is legitimate enough and, of course, has the leadership required to keep de facto the office of president.

A further topic is the financial impact of the Caudillo's absences and resurrections. Debt values move a lot with that dynamic. Somebody who has access to this information in a privileged manner may become rich in no time at all. Does Chávez know this?

IMPACTS OF THAT HYPOTHESIS. It is well known that the temptation to indefinitely maintain the status quo perhaps exists. If Chávez enters and comes out of the hyperbaric chamber and Nicolás Maduro acts as President under the watchful eye of Diosdado Cabello, the attempt can be made to extend a "permanent" provisional situation. In the event of absolute absence, those who call the shots could try to put the situation off to delay the call for election. However, if the widespread idea that the President is not fit to fulfill his office becomes established, both basic factions within the ruling party will set in motion. Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello will unavoidably dispute succession, among other reasons because the forces that have grouped around each one of them will demand it.

On the opposition side, things will not be better. Some well may believe that negotiating with the government to obtain posts and extend the situation without immediately calling for election is convenient; but if succession is put in the front burner because intermittence becomes acute, it will be almost unavoidable for the democratic world to generate a powerful trend favorable to a new presidential election, although under totally different election conditions to those that have prevailed.

The issue of choosing an opposition candidate would be raised again, but now with the dead weight of 10/7's defeat and the impact that the outcome of 12/16's election will have. The truth is that the game would be open again. Some may say that this problem was already settled with a primary election; however, it is obvious that this election was held for an event that already finished, with a defeat, by the way. A new, maybe more complex political deal should be struck so as not to succumb to the temptation of easy things, which would determine how the opposition presidential candidate would be chosen. Obviously, those who were marginalized and excluded from the prior process would take the actions required for that situation not to repeat.

WHAT IS BEING DONE. The government has not been able to "collect" everything it got on 10/7. Fiscal accounts, popular demands, and Chávez' health have undermined celebration enthusiasm and the prospects of a one-thousand year long Bolivarian empire. Time has shortened for Chávez and the process he leads. It does not mean that the democratic opposition is doing better; it is already known that it is coming out of a defeat that was unexpected for most of them, which could be lessened or deepened if the result is adverse on 12/16's election.

This crisis does not have resolution centers, at least not evident ones. The country could face a situation marked by events like the progressive disappearance of the role of Chávez; the attempt by his right-hand men (of course backed by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice's ad hoc resolutions) to remain in power; an economic and financial catastrophe, a beaten opposition; the demand for a new leadership; all this within the framework of growing social protests. The Government would be tempted to include in its dynamic of false dialogue some opposition factors, for instance in the communal issue. It should be remembered that this regime prays to god only when something bad is approaching; that dialogue is today nothing but a delaying tactic that could only be feasible, desirable and productive with a clear agenda and interlocutors recognized by both conflicting sectors.

2013. It has been sustained here that the crisis that was supposed to be solved with 2012's presidential and gubernatorial elections, would really appear to be reaching its peak in 2013 and then it could be resolved. It has been said that efforts should be made to understand what is at stake, eventually promote transparent understandings that render this transition, which already began some time ago, viable. Otherwise, although nobody promotes or desires it, the military, unwillingly, could be prompted to intervene. Civilians are obliged to lead the resolution of the impending crisis. It is their duty.
Twitter @carlosblancog

Translated by Álix Hernández

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