Many of us who thought that Chávez would win the
Chávez's admission that his cancer treatment will slow him down -- "I can't keep up this pace," he said Tuesday -- and the massive show of support for 39-year-old presidential candidate
All of a sudden, Chávez has lost his aura of invincibility. Venezuelan political insiders are no longer discussing whether Chávez will stay in power "beyond 2019" -- as he claimed as recently as
There are three major scenarios of what may happen in
- Scenario 1: Nothing changes. Chávez slows down his campaign, but remains on the ballot for the October presidential elections.
Chávez could win, if -- in addition to around-the-clock propaganda and intimidation campaigns -- his government benefits from a big rise in oil prices from a potential Israeli attack on
Also, the "pity effect" of Venezuelans who may feel emotionally closer to an ailing leader could help Chávez at the ballot box, although such feelings may now be offset by anger over the president's clumsy denials of rumors about his health that turned out to be true.
- Scenario 2: Chávez appoints a successor. Chávez's health deteriorates, and -- pretty much like
Still, without Chávez's constant presence in the media, his successor could lose the October elections. Polls show that Chávez is much more popular than his notoriously corrupt and inept government. In addition, electoral trends in recent years have shown steady gains for the opposition: anti-Chávez candidates won 52 percent of the vote in the 2010 legislative elections, and got an unexpectedly high 3 million votes in this month's opposition primaries.
- Scenario 3: A military intervention, or "the Egyptian scenario." Chávez becomes incapacitated or dies in coming months, and the likelihood of an opposition victory in the October elections moves the Venezuelan military to create a provisional government, claiming that the country has become ungovernable.
Chávez's top generals would have the most to lose if the regime falls. Some of the generals, including Defense Minister Gen.
"To avoid losing power, the military may claim that the country is on the verge of a supposed civil war and intervene," says
My opinion: Any of these three scenarios is possible, but in the interest of preserving what is left of Venezuelan democracy, the Obama administration and Latin American governments should warn
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