We're going to miss him...

So long, suckers!
So long, suckers!

So Chávez’s wholesale disappearance for 3-weeks+ has finally convinced me: the guy’s probably dying now. There’s no other way to make sense of it.

And, you know what? We’ll miss him when he’s gone.

We really will. Because for all his many, many faults, Chávez really does think of himself as a redeeming figure, a democrat and a justice-maker.

The psychiatrics behind that self-perception are clearly FUBAR, but they impose a few clear red lines: Blatant, large-scale ballot rigging. Indiscriminate (as opposed to selective) persecution of ideological opponents. Wholesale application of outright censorship (rather than selective after-publication harrassment.) Mass political killings.

It’s been 14 years and Chávez has never resorted to these. That doesn’t make him Aung San Suu Kyi, but it does keep him from sinking to Castro/Mugabe territory.

Well, guess what: none of the guys who’ll be fighting it out to take the coroto after he’s gone are likely to feel bound by those red lines. The upper reaches of the chavista governing elite are top-heavy with narco-drenched gangland types, and they won’t even have a controlling figure standing over them to keep the inevitable tensions between them from escalating out of control.

In this context, losing ourselves in exegesis of Article 233 seems pointless. The best case scenario after he’s gone is a relatively uncontested transition to an underling who retains at least some commitment to the original red-lines. The more likely scenario is a chaotic scramble for power. The whole notion of thirty-days-then-elections-then-a-relatively-stable-transition-to-an-oppo-led-government strikes me as vanishingly unlikely, not to say wholly fantastic.

It may seem inconceivable to us now. But check back in six months or so: when the guy’s gone, we’re going to miss him.