Transition Launch Reax: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

CANCILLER DE VENEZUELA NICOLAS MADUROSomething old: Two days before October’s vote I wrote,

How sick Chávez may be is impossible to say. But his bout with cancer inevitably put his supporters in mind of his mortality. Chávez has always been more popular than the government he leads, and Venezuelans intuit that the president may not be able to serve out another six year term. When the big guy is not around anymore, what will be left behind are the institutions he has created. As it turns out they, too, are bloated, lumbering beasts, stricken by corruption that’s metastasized out of all control.

Nice to feel prophetic once in a while.

Something new: I really am surprised Chávez was as explicit and clear as he was in naming Maduro as his no-doubt-about-it successor. I’d always figured the guy’s ego would just be too big for that, and he’d leave a succession mess behind. By naming a dauphin very publicly and very explicitly, Chávez lowers the chances for chaos and an all out Battle Royale for power after he’s gone. It’s shocking because it’s responsible: here’s Chávez looking forward to a time when he’s not around and thinking through the best way to keep the country governable. Après-moi, le stable, orderly succession?! Now I’ve seen it all…

Something borrowed: It’s impossible to imagine Chávez’s decision to return from Cuba for a few hours purely to anoint Maduro was done without Fidel’s advice and consent. Fidel, after all, knows a thing or two about orchestrating successions. That tells me a couple of thing. One: Maduro is the guy the Cubans think is most likely to keep the oil spigot open. Two: now we’re not just borrowing ice cream brands from the Cubans, but presidential selection methods: in a very real sense Venezuela’s next president has now been chosen by Fidel Castro.

Something blue: If you listen closely, there was some ambiguity in his statement about what may trigger a new election. His death would do so, of course, but he left himself plenty of room to step aside earlier: “si se presentara alguna circunstancia sobrevenida que a mí me inhabilite para continuar al frente de la Presidencia de la República”. It may be that he figures he has, say 3-6 months left (caveat: doctors are notoriously bad at estimating these kinds of figures) and he’d prefer to step down well before he dies so he can actually campaign for Maduro in person. With the government’s propaganda machine cranked up to 11 and Chávez starring personally in Maduro’s 30-second spots, its very far from clear to me that Maduro would lose.