Unthinkable deals will have to be cut to save the Republic — possibly as early as this week. You can add that to the staggering bill Venezuela will have to pay for the Chávez era. Add it to a wasted trillion-dollar oil boom, a generation lost, our first major exile and whatever Russia wants from us.

Nicolás Maduro leaving his office and the country sounds gorgeous, even sexy (the only way to place “Nicolás Maduro” and “sexy” in the same sentence). I want it, you want it, my cafetalero kin can’t wait for it! But as we game out what it will take to end the conflict, you start to realize Maduro resigning is the easy part. He’s a Head of State, you can always find someplace to stash one of those away.

The question is, what will it take for Cabello and El-Aissami to go as well?

Because, make no mistake: a solution that leaves two drug kingpins in charge of the country is no solution at all.

It may be that the real hold-up isn’t Maduro. It’s Cabello and El Aissami. Finding a solution for where they go is going to be just as urgent as allowing international aid, ridding the Armed Forces and police from their bad apples and refinancing our whole debt.

Technically, El Aissami is the Vice President of the Republic, while Cabello is just a lowly PSUV Vice President. In fact, they are both faction heads — leaders of informal networks of government activists that control huge swathes of the state. They are the key movers in the party-state structure, something terrifying if you’re on the side that wants them out.

A solution that leaves two drug kingpins in charge of the country is no solution at all.

Of course, getting them to step aside is tricky, since both are up to their necks in drugs connections. Tareck’s been named by the Treasury Department under its Kingpin Act powers. Diosdado’s indictment is, we suspect, still sealed. Their ships are piles of ash: their best alternative to crushing the opposition is a supermax cell in Colorado.

Just ask yourself: how far would you be willing to go to avoid the next 40 years in there?

The challenge is to find a solution they can accept and that will eliminate them from the Venezuelan political sphere forever. The diplomatic work of finding some country somewhere that will agree to take them in and live out their lives quietly as they spend a portion of what they’ve stolen is not sexy, but it needs to be done.

Where could it be?

It has to be a place that shields them from the threat of a potential extradition to the US. Russia? Saint Vincent and the Grenadines? La isla? Personally, I think MUD should push for Russia — just because we need some actual physical distance once they’re gone.

The outline of a deal is easy to imagine. They agree not to participate in public life, we agree not to go after all their assets — only some. A formal declaration banning them from public life may be needed, too. It sounds like a cute formality, but one worth checking to avoid some foolish derrière-biting down the line.

None of it will come cheap. Whichever country takes the paquete is going to want something in return. If it’s Russia, we’re probably talking about a widening presence in the Faja del Orinoco and Arco Minero mining area.

That’s the sort of proposal MUD will eventually have to come to terms with. It’s brutal, expensive and almost as bad as defeat.

But what it buys is priceless: A chance to start anew.

There is, after all, no point in chopping off only one of the Hydra’s heads.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.