Silence of Hugo Chávez Fuels Speculation and Rumors

With the return of a healthy Chávez, things are very likely to continue to get worse. A loss of Chávez's power may be a good thing and, with no successor likely to have his charismatic appeal, life in Venezuela might get better, slowly. Chávez has filled to overflowing a Venezuelan Augean stable and whoever takes over will have a Herculean task should he try to muck it out. If a new el Presidente tries but fails, the country will continue its descent down and through the spiral drain.

Armed revolution if Chávez does not return to power may also be possible. It was observed here that

Given the uncertainty and rumors about President Hugo Chavez’ health, today’s warning from the President’s brother Adan Chavez is quite ominous. In a speech in Barinas State, Adan Chavez said:

“The revolution was born in the Bicentennial era and it made it through elections and we want it to continue that way, following a peaceful path that allows us to build Bolivarian socialism, but aware of the dangers that beset us and that the enemy does not rest, we can not forget as authentic revolutionaries, other methods of struggle. “

He then proceeded to quote Che Guevara:

“It would be inexcusable to limit ourselves to only the electoral and not see other forms of struggle, including the armed struggle.” (emphasis in original)

What would a future with a diminished or dead Chávez mean for the rest of Latin America and for the United States? Cuba, of which Venezuela under Chávez has become a de facto colony, would probably be the nation hardest hit were armed revolution or anarchy to break out in Venezuela. Cuba depends on cheap or substantially free Venezuelan oil and, despite grossly inefficient management coupled with deteriorating oil infrastructure, Venezuela has been able to produce enough to supply Cuba as well as the United States, which actually pays for it. Electricity is needed for oil production and Venezuela's generating capacity and electrical grid are in terrible shape and getting worse; extended blackouts are a common occurrence. A Communist ideologue from Cuba has been in charge of it even though he knows very little about generating electricity. Here is a cartoon from last year that pretty much says it all.

Cuba also relies on Venezuela to support Cuban trained physicians, regardless of their medical skills, as well as many others. There are many Cuban military "advisers" with substantial power over the military, resented by some in the military.

If Cuba's Venezuelan colony ceases to be willing or able to assist Cuba, Cuba will be up the creek. Where will she turn? China? Maybe, if there's something in it for China -- perhaps a military base very close to the United States. Russia, Iran? Ditto. Indeed, probably any country capable of supporting her, willing to do so, and to which she can provide something of value. It seems unlikely that the United States would currently be willing to bail out Cuba.

How about the United States replacing Cuba as the colonial master of Venezuela? Venezuela would impose a horrendous financial drain as a de facto colony and beyond keeping her from the clutches of our enemies -- possibly an important consideration if it could be done -- we would gain little more than South Korea would gain by taking over and assuming responsibility for North Korea. This would likely be the case even though the United States could use Venezuelan petroleum resources and even though South Korea could use North Korean mineral resources. I have substantial doubts that it could be done, due to the disdain in which Chavistas hold the United States and their need to retain power. How would President Obama try to accomplish it? Dithering wouldn't work. I find it very difficult to imagine that he would even try to do it in the best interests of the United States.

The United States was not always held in disdain in Venezuela. When we were there, we found the people generally quite pleasant and helpful. My wife and I were in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela (a major but impoverished port city), at the time of the September 11, 2001 Islamic attack. My wife, fluent in Spanish, had got to know the port captain there and was helping some other gringos, who had recently arrived on their sailboats, through customs, immigration, and the port captain's office. They had finished in the port captain's office and left when he ran after her, excitedly urging her to return quickly. An aircraft impacting on the World Trade Center had just been on local television. He was visibly shaken. During the next several days, we were stopped by many Venezuelans on the street to commiserate about the dastardly nature of the attack. Would something similar occur now, with Chávez's influence having metastasized throughout the country? I rather doubt it.

If it becomes clear that Chávez is now dead or if he soon dies many will try to make stabs at predicting the consequences. I may be among them as things settle down and there are more actual facts to consider.