Pushing the Hugo Chavez Era Toward Its End

By Federico Delgado
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Just as importantly, why did the opposition -- led by Henrique Capriles -- go only as far as reluctantly and grumblingly accepting the matter as settled? It is understandable that they wished to convey respect and serenity in a tense situation. But there was much, much more room for stronger protests and louder objections. Further, if the OAS was unlikely to take a hard look at Venezuela because of misplaced fear and reverence to Chavez or Venezuela or both, it was even less likely to do so if the opposition is hesitant to openly and loudly denounce what is wrong and corrupt.

Chavez's passing will only mean the end of Chavism if both the Venezuelan opposition and the OAS step up forcefully -- in that order. Caudillismo dies with the caudillo only if it is replaced by something better when he goes -- otherwise a new caudillo steps in soon enough. It is a tragicomedy Latin America has wrestled with since its inception, and it is as true in the case of Venezuela now as it was previously anywhere else.

Moreover, the expectation that infighting between Chavez loyalists -- led by either Nicolas Madura or Diosdado Cabello -- could destabilize the government enough to be a significant setback is particularly factitious fantasy. Chavez's legacy, if nothing else, is built on the importance of political survival at all costs. Whether that means throwing your regional allies under the bus, swallowing your jingoistic pride, bankrupting a state-run company -- or acquiescing to another's leadership grab.

But fate has granted Venezuela a second chance following the missed opportunity of the elections back in October. These are rare and its citizens must not hesitate to push forcefully for change.

Venezuela's opposition badly needs a reset. With enough bodies in the streets they could effectively mark a turning point when they stop being shouted down and pushed aside by Chavism. They must object, they must protest and they must demand something better for their country. 

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In turn, those countries in the Americas that believe democracy remain a healthy and dynamic system on the continent must stand up, by way of the OAS, and support the efforts of Venezuelan democrats.

That list should include the United States, leading from the front.

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Federico Delgado has worked on democratic governance and political development projects with the UN Development Program throughout Latin America. He is a graduate of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

(AP Photo)

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