When I commented on NRO a few days ago about the possibility of Chávez’s death from (we now know) cancer, I predicted that there would be no obvious heir apparent. Instead, I argued that the country would lapse into a military dictatorship or a civil war, or possibly both. Several people e-mailed me that I was surely taking too grim a view of Venezuela and Venezuelans.
During yesterday’s parade to celebrate 200 years of Venezuelan independence from Spain, opposition congresswoman Maria Corina Machado was physically attacked by a mob of Chávez supporters. They attacked her with fists, hurled objects at her, and punched her in the face. The army officer assigned to protect her reportedly suffered a head injury from a large object thrown by the same group.
This is only one incident, of course, but it underscores the incredible polarization and class hatred that Chávez has stirred up in his country, formerly one of the more socially integrated Latin American republics.
Moreover, during the few days when Chávez was unable to communicate with his followers while recovering from surgery in Cuba, some of his associates publicly threatened violence to keep power if challenged.
The brickbats launched at Señora Corina Machado are a mere foretaste of what is to come, whether Chávez lives or dies.