Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Reports from the Front

Our part of town has been quiet for the past 24 hours.

When word came out yesterday that Chavez had died, the city stopped.  Stores and restaurants closed down.  Everyone left.  Quickly.  Very quickly.

Many people, like us and most of our neighbors, headed straight home.  Others headed to the military hospital where he died, or to the main square in town, or to a church for prayer.  In certain parts of the city, there have been people flooding the streets in tears.  Some violence, but apparently not much.

This morning, we awoke to uncertainty.  The schools and public offices were closed.  Businesses and the U.S. Embassy were open, although not handing out visas.  The grocery stores were packed with crazed shoppers.  Lines were long, and shelves emptied quickly.  But as the day wore on, we saw very little change.

Maduro has claimed the presidency, even though the president that he was vice- to was never sworn in to the current term.  They say that they will hold elections in 30 days, as called for under the constitution.  They have expelled a total of two U.S. diplomats, naming them as spies.  Both work in the Air Force attache office, in positions which are overtly gathering information on the military.

A few things make me nervous.  I am nervous about the anti-American sentiment the government was attempting to stir up on Tuesday, just before breaking the news of Chavez' death.  I am also nervous about the city slowly descending into chaos.  Although the line of succession is clear, behind the scenes power grabs are clearly happening - and no one in the country has as much charisma, as much political savvy, as many connections or the strong love of their people that Chavez had.  Maduro may be most in line with the systems and politics Chavez put in place, but that does not mean that he will be able to lead this country.  The country may be led in different directions, and it may go without clear leadership.  It certainly could go without good leadership.

We stay close to home these days, but we don't lock ourselves inside.  Dave's at the store right now.  He walked to work today.  We'll be at the park tomorrow.  Life goes on.

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