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Whither post-Chávez Venezuela

To put the entire subject of Venezuela into perspective from a yanqui point of view, I suggest reading the following snippet by Matthew Yglesias.

The late Hugo Chavez is controversial because of American aspirations to global military hegemony. People who vocally oppose those aspirations find themselves subjected to a massive amount of scrutiny of their human rights record that leaders who support it manage to completely avoid. Thus Chavez is an authoritarian strongman while King Abdullah II of Jordan does cameos on Star Trek Voyager. And since American aspirations to global military hegemony are uncontroversial inside the United States, critics of said aspirations develop an outsized level of emotional affiliation with foreign leaders who are subjected to this kind of hypocritical scrutiny. Matthew Yglesias – Slate

That quote more or less gives us the parameters of an American discussion of Hugo Chávez and the future of his movement, revolution or regime, whichever you prefer.

Cutting to the chase: in my opinion, if the Venezuelan army and Venezuela’s poor hang together and the bottom doesn’t totally drop out of oil market, Chavismo will survive, either as a potent force for change in Venezuela, Latin America and the Third World in general or in a degenerate form like Argentinian Peronism, with Chávez in the role of Evita. Whatever happens, the poor people of Venezuela will never forget him and will always worship his memory, in some ways he is more powerful dead than alive.

First the army. To really have any idea of Venezuela’s future you would have to be a fly on the wall in a Venezuelan army junior officer’s mess. One of the USA’s problems south of the border nowadays is that they no longer train and network most of Latin America’s army officers like they used to in Cold War days, and neither are they the exclusive suppliers of those country’s weapon systems anymore. That is why the US backed coup against Hugo Chavez failed: only the older, Yankee trained officers were behind it, the young officers, the ones who make successful coups, backed Chávez.

As to oil, I would imagine that Russia, China, Iran would be quite willing to supply the necessary expertise to help restructure Venezuela’s limping oil industry in order to dilute American influence.

For me the question is whether what follows Chávez will be a serious revolution or simply a demagogic fraud like Peronism has become. A revolution means a total change in the social and economic relations of a country. Many observers, who don’t sympathize with Chávez’s goals predict that his regime will quickly disintegrate without his hand on the helm. I’m not at all sure they are right.

We should take into account that Chavez didn’t just suddenly drop dead of a heart attack…. the regime has had plenty of time to prepare… also we should take into account that the revolutionary infrastructure and revolutionary “consulting” services available to Venezuela come from the Castro brothers, who are the world’s most successful revolutionaries, and if nothing else, certainly brilliant survivors.

An example of the brothers’ ingenious handiwork is using the Cuban model of turning the ranchito (favela) “comadres” (gossipy, neighborhood, old wives and general busybodies) into the eyes and ears of the regime with cost-effective neighborhood “committees.” The Cubans are supplying the type of know how that the CIA, the State Department and the USIA used to supply to South America’s right wing dictators. The survival of the Castro brother’s life’s work may depend on Venezuelan oil and I wouldn’t want to be standing between the Castro brothers and survival, it could be hazardous to ones health

Certainly the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela are mutually dependent and the Castros are very hard, intelligent and experienced men and will not let everything they have built up over decades just slip through their fingers only because Chavez has died.

So those are the elements: the army, the oil and the Cubans and most of all, the poor people of Venezuela, who for the first time in their history are playing a leading role in the drama of their lives.

Cross posted from:

Photo by Luigino Bracci released under a Creative Commons license.

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David Seaton

David Seaton