Carlos Blanco's A Time To Talk, released on February 3
"Chávez' absence has made power fall apart and it can no longer be exercised"
Mutiny in the Captaincy
The feeling that everything is collapsing is quickly emerging. A powerful frigate in the middle of turbulent waters, without a captain or control, without anchor or route, is heading toward the place where all catastrophes happen. Perhaps it won't; but it might run aground before it gets the stacks that lead to Hell or hit a sandbank; but, for now, the captain has been evacuated in a helicopter; the other officers have not completed the correspondence pilot course; cabin boys have polished off all rum reserves; the machine room is flooded; and the worried passengers heatedly disagree over how and when they are going to take out the lifebuoys.
The country is falling apart; the State is controlled by a Russian-style mob; citizens sometimes have no other way but devoting to the illustrious task of hunting for chicken, discovering sugar treasuries, spotting second-degree beef, digging up eggs without Eastern, and milking clandestine cows to get (disappeared) milk. What happens with the everyday citizen is also happening with the elites. Sudden heroes are without control, like zombies tamed by the gendarme who has vanished and cannot be quickly replaced. This explains the pitiful pilgrimage to Havana to receive orders that are not given, get signatures that are not affixed, orders that are not obeyed. Neither Raúl Castro nor Maduro can replace Chávez, no matter how much they try. None of them has the power to mend what is broken.
VACUUM POWER. Some time ago, this author wrote that more than a power vacuum, there is a "vacuum power". Chávez developed a power dynamics that joined civilians and military, right and left wings, aristocrats and plebeians. Like in any autocracy, power relations were controlled by Chávez, who used some individuals to calm others down. It should not be forgotten that current subordinates were sometime ousted in turns: Nicolás Maduro was temporary candidate for governor of Carabobo state, Diosdado Cabello for Monagas state and Elías Jaua, who survived until the election, for Miranda state. The Caudillo put them up and down, in and out the closet, at will. The playmaker is no longer here.
Chávez's absence has made power fall apart and it can no longer be exercised. There are only two forces left: inertia and armed or judicial repression. For one, the ship is moving just because of the speed at which it was navigating before, through the force of wind and titanic waves, but without any course. The other force is that of riot brigades of the once democratic National Guard, the political -civilian and military- police corps, the courts and paramilitary groups -mobile units included- which can instill terror. Apart from institutional inertia and terror, there is not any cohesion force, now that the Great Mender has vanished.
Power got sick, left for Havana and is like a spirit that refuses to appear at a séance. The séance continues because of the ectoplasmic expectation, but the power continues to fall apart, because its core has molten. Keeping the idea of a comeback is essential, but as days go by, even Chávez' power, regardless of how strong it has been, liquefies.
WEAKNESSES. The regime has never been weaker than today; however, this does not mean that opposition is strong. Never before Chavezism has looked as disconcerted as now, although they have decided to resort to usurpation with the little help of the Supreme Tribunal. In the practice, the country is being ruled by a Government Junta made up of Maduro, Cabello, Rafael Ramírez, perhaps Adán Chávez -who has been unexplainably discrete these recent days- and the good-for-nothing of Raúl Castro, who enjoys Latin America not because of the power of Chavezism, but because of the moral fragility of many democrats.
Elections are coming. Elections will be held when they (Chavezism) believe that they have everything under control. They believe this is the ideal mechanism to put right the judicial trick that provided the dwindling power with a breath of "administrative continuity." However, everything smells like trap, wit and cunning. They cannot solve any problem, regardless of its nature, economic, financial, social or administrative, without resorting to measures that will hit those who have been favored by their demagogy. They overdrew in true and symbolic terms. Chávez is not eternal, nor were Perón, Getulio Vargas; Juan Vicente Gómez, Marcos Pérez Jiménez, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and, apparently, Fidel Castro. They might want to turn Chávez into a saint or a (fallen) angel, but he can no longer solve the problems of his subordinates.
WEAK LINKS. The way the crisis has evolved has turned the regime's major strength -the Cuban connection- into its worst weakness. Yes, Cuban chieftains are skillful, have discipline and organization, and the Golden Fleece they found: Chávez' raptures about Fidel. But that strength became weakness; the obscene display of submission to the Castro tribe has stirred such turmoil of protests that the fight for democracy has become a fight against Cuban colonialism.
Democratic struggles in the country now have a content of healthy patriotism propitiated by the despotism of "Venecuba" -a term coined by Agustín Blanco Muñoz. Some time ago, nobody would have imagined that Venezuelan struggles were to have this anti-colonial nuance.
Along with the clash against Castros' control and given the imminence of presidential election, the fight for a change in election conditions has become the order of the day. We do not know how far people can move forward on this road, but denounce, demand and unity around the electoral question can allow the democratic movement to take the offensive.
Luckily, the country has begun to produce an interesting political convergence that could allow people to come out of the inertia that has also pervaded the opposition. If political agreements are reached and the resulting candidate promotes that anti-colonial line of thought and the fight for a fair playing field, the scattered forces of today may quickly unify in real terms, even though different regional or local convergence centers exist, including Junta Patriótica, the opposition alliance MUD, parties and other political associations, civil society emerging movements, the parliamentary block, among others.
THREATENING CALM. The country got accustomed to despair and we were crushed by it. Nobody knows. The country is feeling the impact of widespread tensions and helmsmen perhaps have lost control. Nicolas Maduro's repressive and brutal response to the plea of a 15-year old girl, daughter of Commissioner Iván Simonovis, is a symptom of how hard they are trying to disguise the loss of legitimacy with repression.
Translated by Álix Hernández
Cristian Fonseca, a businessman in La Candelaria district downtown Caracas, was doing the accounts in his small shop office on Sunday December 21, 2008. The Christmas shopping season kept him working late hours into the night. It was around 11 p.m. and his phone rang. A friend broke the bad news to him over the telephone.