Carlos Blanco's A Time to Talk, released on January 6
"The Great Mender is no longer able to keep on playing. Hence, the role of the Cuban leadership"
This column has dealt with the political implications of President Chávez's health condition without speculating about his illness. One reason is that no details or medical information are available to discuss the possible diagnosis. Another reason is that everything is too transparent. Assuming the most conservative stance, that of believing what people who love Chávez like Ernesto Villegas, Nicolás Maduro, Heinz Dieterich, Evo Morales, José Mujica, say, then the conclusion is one: the President will not come back to assume office, even though his life is not compromised.
Chávez's permanent absence is the most likely scenario. For months, we have been saying that his was the most important political variable. The national and international impact of the disappearance of this powerful leadership cannot be estimated.
Given this situation, all political factors in the country have disorganized. Neither Chavezism nor opposition has a homogeneous behavior. After several years, Chávez managed to become the articulator of a political and institutional system that cannot survive the absence of its axis without suffering astonishing changes. I have sustained that it is as if suddenly the gravity center of a system would collapse and planets, satellites, asteroids and other celestial bodies would lose their orbits. "¡Chávez, vete ya!" (Chávez, go home!) and "¡Uh! ¡Ah! ¡Chávez no se va!" (Uh! Ah! Chávez won't go!) have been battle cries of both sides.
This is over.
These changes have begun to generate different political stances. A remarkable one is the conversion of the atheists; some characters cultivated in the militant agnosticism are now prostrated with mystic ecstasy. The prayer has become a common expression given Chávez' serious health condition; but basically a political move. Those ecstatic congregations are a way to link popular religiosity to the exaltation of the leader at his life crossroad.
There is a relevant topic about the role of religious prayer. It is completely natural that Church authorities pray for the President's health, as they do for any human being, much more because of the significance and impact that he has on the country's life. However, I find that the behavior of those leaders who instead of keeping silent, as circumstances impose given the individual involved, opt for an exercise of exhibitionism proclaiming their prayers for the President, is a little exaggerated. We can admit that everyone who wants to pray has the right to do it, but as if they were really trying to communicate with God in a private, discrete manner, without ostentation that are not credible. Those who turn their utmost private religious faith and associated rituals into propaganda are suspicious: it suffices to remember Chávez in his frequent pious ecstasies.
THE GREAT MENDER. Chavezism has been a developing political current. Its nurturing sources are diverse: the leftist military sector represented by Chávez himself, who drew from the political ideas of Douglas Bravo and several leftist insurrectional leaders; the non-communist military sector once represented by commanders Jesús Urdaneta Hernández and Francisco Arias Cárdenas, among others; and the sector that early broke with the (Chávez's) process (with the notable comeback of Arias Cárdenas); a leftist civilian sector that put some distance between them and 1992 coup, but that later assumed that Chávez could be the one to take to power a left that had been defeated a thousand times; a part of the bourgeoisie that believed that the commander who led a coup d'état would be the instrument to get rid of AD and COPEI (parties), without finishing with the same bourgeoisie in the attempt; the international left that, after the strategic defeat of the continental revolution inspired by Fidel Castro, again found a cause and a leader; and, of course, the Cubans that no longer had to flirt with Carlos Andrés Pérez, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, César Gaviria and Felipe González, to be able to rejoin more or less smoothly the Latin American community.
Chávez paved the way for an oil-based leadership that was able to articulate that vast alliance of differentiated and even divergent interests. The Caudillo is usually perceived as the bad-tempered man he has been; but, in terms of that convergence of interests, his behavior reveals him as a great mender: he retired military, resuscitated them, retired them again; dug them out; an important strategy was appointing them as "candidates" for governors; this happened with Elías Jaua, Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, just to mention the most notable ones. Sometimes, those candidacies have functioned as freezers where ambitions are frozen and stupidity is cured.
The Great Mender is no longer able to set the playing field, hence the role of the Cuban leadership. We should not believe that those speaking to the Venezuelan people are an old Fidel that has gone completely gaga and Raúl Castro. The entire Politburo of the Cuban Communist Party is focused on trying to manage the Venezuelan crisis; furthermore, leading teams that have been more than 50 years doing their job and that managed to politically and psychologically control the Venezuelan President cannot be underestimated.
However, Cubans have limitations. They have their generals and officers in Fuerte Tiuna; they have some figures inside the PSUV (ruling party), but they can no longer behave like when Chávez was active, when nobody could utter a protest word inside Chavezism. The Cuban Communist Party wants to control, but it cannot, because the fundamental instrument of its interference in Venezuela, the Caudillo, is not in proper conditions.
Against this panorama, it is unavoidable that factions take their own ways and try to gain as much control as possible. There are two clear factions represented by Nicolás Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, but they are not the only ones. They personally can get along fine, but the forces they represent have divergent roads.
DISIDENCE. This could be the most complex scenario for democrats after 2002's events. Are forces of parties grouped in the MUD enough? Can the MUD be broadened? Can a National Front that includes MUD be created and broaden for it to have more social meaning? Is Capriles the candidate for the upcoming election? If he isn't, who could be? Can we participate under the same conditions as 10/7 and 12/16? Could it be more difficult to defeat Nicolás Maduro, who has been anointed by Chávez, than Chávez himself? These are questions the answer of which requires a serenity that arrogant and intolerant individuals do not have.
Translated by Álix Hernández
That political protest in Venezuela has lost momentum seems pretty obvious: people are no longer building barricades to block off streets near Plaza Francia in Altamira (eastern Caracas), an anti-government stronghold; no new images have been shown of brave and dashing protesters with bandanna-covered faces clashing with the National Guard in San Cristóbal, in the western state of Táchira; and those who dreamed of a horde of "Gochos" (Tachirans) descending in an avalanche to stir up revolt in Caracas have been left with no option but to wake up to reality.