First, do no harm

The first Cuban doctor
The first Cuban doctor

The current political/oncological drama shaking Venezuela presents a tricky situation for the opposition.

On the one hand, they need to avoid the danger of appearing to gloat. Ultimately, even the most hard-hearted of us feels some sympathy for a man getting ready to meet his maker, and we must make that clear. This is a human being, one that millions of our countrymen adore and revere, and we gain nothing by wishing him good riddance or talking about “dulce de lechosa.” It’s not right, morally or politically.

Yet the way this whole deal has been handled threatens the very core of the Venezuelan State, and it is their duty to call the other side on this. The lack of transparency has been apalling, and everything – from the dedazo designating his successor, to the Armed Forces pledging loyalty to a single person and his political project – are simply unacceptable.

Take the small issue of who makes the calls. Is Maduro in charge? What happens after Chavez comes out of surgery? What happens if he lingers on for months? Will Chavez continue to guide the country until he becomes unconscious? If the gringos decide to invade the day after tomorrow, whose orders do the Armed Forces respond to?

The President should have resigned, or at least, declared a temporary absence as a prelude to his permanent one. However, politically the opposition cannot bring this up without sounding insensitive or shrill.

The other issue is the internal struggles within chavismo. It would be quite easy for opposition figures to stir the pot and create friction between the multiple strands within chavismo – intrigue, after all, is what many of these guys have for breakfast.

However, we run the risk of being portrayed as playing politics in a time of national crisis. It may even end up helping chavistas coalesce around Maduro.

So I guess their best strategy is to wish Chavez well, plan ahead internally, and stay out of it mostly. The risks appear to be too damn high for anything else.