Tropical Kremlinology

As I blogged the other day, Venezuela’s populist dynamo Hugo Chávez has left the country yet again for more cancer treatments in Cuba, possibly for the last time.  In his absence:  intricate clan wars among the ruling party, an aspiring opposition, and a staggering heap of social ills.  Francisco Toro writes in The New Republic on whether or not the chosen successor Nicolás Maduro step outside the shadow of his patron:

The trouble with Yes Men, of course, is that you can never tell what they’re really thinking. Maduro’s resume provides only limited guidance: A Caracas bus driver turned radical union organizer for bus drivers, he’s seen as a champion for the civilian side of the Civilian-Military divide, a split typically described as pitting more radical, leftist, pro-Cuban civilians against more conservative, corrupt, nationalistic military men in the upper echelons of bureaucratic Chavismo.

We’re reduced here to painting with very broad brushes—a kind of tropical Kremlinology that tells its own story about just how authoritarian politics have become in the Chávez era. Essentially all the politicking that matters in Caracas these days happens behind closed doors, well away from the public sphere, leaving rumors about rifts between Chavista factions to roam wild in the Twittersphere. It’s not an edifying spectacle.

The reality is that, like every pol who’s managed to survive a decade and a half of splits and purges within the Chávez movement, Nicolás Maduro is a political minikin, part of the flotsam left behind after every Chávez supporter of substance and integrity either walked out or was thrown out. (…)

f transition comes earlier, the “winner” of fresh elections will find himself in the unenviable position of having to reverse treasured Chavista spending programs soon after taking power, and Chávez will forever be remembered as the hero who kept the evil neoliberals at bay right up until the day he died. But if Chávez manages to hang on for another year or so, he may just live to preside over the collapse of his own governing model.

Which is one very good reason to cry out, “¡Viva Chávez!”