Friday, September 30, 2011

Contemplating a post-Chavez Venezuela

Power Line has a piece by Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute discussing what may happen in Venezuela after Hugo Chavez' regime ends:

The latest rumors out of Caracas — unconfirmed but not wholly without some foundation — are that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez may be fatally succumbing to cancer. If this is so, it won’t be long before the world knows it. The news certainly justifies some reflection on what might happen in that country were the president to die at the present time.

The fact is, chavismo is a one-man circus. There is simply no one else in the regime, not even his brother Adán, who can play the same role and attract the same level of political support. Chávez’s survival is absolutely crucial to the continuation of the regime, because the Venezuelan president, for all his buffoonery, for all the waste and corruption and downright silliness associated with his government, is still popular with roughly half the country’s population.

On the other hand, perhaps as much as forty percent — certainly thirty percent — are mildly to strongly opposed to his regime and its continuation in any form.

It is common to point out that the opposition is not merely numerically outnumbered, but also qualitatively weaker. There is no outstanding opposition leader–indeed, there are far too many individuals competing for the same role.


Even so, Chávez’s designated successor, if there is one, will not find it easy to rule Venezuela, even equipped with bags of cash and armed with weapons both heavy and light. In the last few years, with oil prices topping $100 a barrel, it has been necessary for Chávez to cut back on his generous political payola, both to his own people and to his clients in Nicaragua and Bolivia. This is so because of bad economic policies, incompetence at the highest levels, but also because of poor maintenance of equipment in the state oil company. Thus in a time of price bonanzas, Venezuela has had far less to sell on the world market than
would normally be the case. There is no reason to think that this situation will improve in the middle term.

All of this adds up to a very confused political situation which could easily erupt into violence, even civil war. In that case no particular outcome could be predicted.
He's probably on point, but the first order of business is getting rid of Chavez, by means natural or otherwise.  That by itself would be a major step forward for peace and prosperity in the world.  There would certainly be consequences, both foreseen and otherwise, but that should not cause us to question the need for removal of Chavez or that his removal, however problematic, would all in all be a good thing.

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