Archive for October, 2002

Good day for the opposition: Gaviria backs electoral solution

October 29, 2002

It was a good day for the opposition as the OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria met with both the church and the Democratic Coordinating Committee, where the opposition appeared to score important points in favor of an election as the solution to the Venezuelan political crisis. Perhaps the biggest victory was the fact that the Coordinating commitee included in their group Gral. Medina Gomez, the highest ranking Gral. among the dissenting officers of Plaza Altamira . Thus, as Chavez’ MVR Deputies were accusing the opposition of trying to descredit the Gaviria visit, he was actually meeting with the Coordinating committee of the opposition and Gral. Medina Gomez in a tacit admission that what the Government calls ‘couspters” and “gorillas” are indeed part of the opposition as well as the solution.


For Gral. Medina, who had to go to the local Hotel where Gaviria is staying, it was a win-win situation. While there was a risk in leaving the protection of Plaza Altamira, he simply could not lose. If the Government atempted to arrest him, it would create an incident, while at the same time by allowing him to freely move around the city the Government was indicating how weak its position is. Having Gaviria accept to meet with Medina was also bad for the Government’s image. The Chavez administration has been trying all week to discredit the dissenting officers from Plaza Altamira, but Gaviria at the end said that while he did not like the “symbolism” of what is going on in Plaza Altamira and its implications from a democratic point of view, he said Gral. Medina had well articulated  thoughts and reflections about what is going on in the country. Gaviria said that it was clear that an electoral solution was the way out of the crisis and it was now a matter of sitting the Government and the opposition together. Opposition leaders, who were unusually united, said that a consultive referendum was the only acceptable option, that on Monday Nov. 4th. they would supply 2 milion signatures asking for it and gave as a dealine the 30 days required by law to have the Electoral Commssion approve the referendum.


Meanwhile in Plaza Altamira, the first week of civil disobedience went by with a fairly large crowd in place. Gral. Medina went back to it triumphally, emerging not only as the recognized leader of the dissenting officers, but also as a signifiacnt opposition leader. Today’s crowd I estimate was as large as that present Saturday night, an indication of how the movement is growing rapidly. There was the usual declarations by new officers joining the movemenet among promises of new “surprises” to come.


Thus, everyday brings surprises to the Venezuelan political scene. Tomorrow Gaviria meets with President Chavez. It will be the key and defining meeting of the Gaviria visit. The silence of the Chavez administration today indicates that, as has been the case during the last week, they were playing defense, reacting to events and going back to the huddle to define strategy. Quite a change for Hugo Chavez who likes to be in charge in all confrontations. Only the approval of a consultve rerendum will avert at this point a possible violent resolution to the current crisis, whether the Chavez Government will promote this still appears unlikely. Thus, the next couple days will provide the defining moments of what happens next.

Tyromaniac: Looking for a Radio feed of Radio Libertad

October 29, 2002

From my brother the Tyromaniac:


There is a radio station transmitting live from Plaza Altamira. It’s on 93.5 FM and it’s called Radio Libertad. I’m trying to get a feed to the internet. I can’t hear it in my house or my office, only in my car… If anyone can get me a feed, just let me know… [Tyromaniac]


I would like to add that while TV stations are broadcasting what happens in Altamira they don’t broadcast the speeches that are going on. Radio Libertad is doing this, so getting a feed to the Internet would allow everyone to follow what is going on, anywhere in the world. 

Los venezolanos no nos debemos dejar inmovilizar por Cesar Gaviria

October 28, 2002

 


While all my posts are in English, I have translated this one I wrote last night as a warning to those Venezuelans that are expecting too much from the mediation of the Secretary General of the OAS Cesar Gaviria.


(Aunque todos mis escritos son en ingles, he traducido este que escribi anoche como una advertencia a los venezolanos que esperan demasiado de la mediacion del Secretario General de la OEA Cesar Gaviria)


 


Aunque los venezolanos tienen altas expectativas del impacto de la visita del Secretario General de la OEA Cesar Gaviria, la experiencia de Perú indica que la OEA contribuirá muy poco para encontrar una solución a la crisis y los venezolanos debemos prestar menos atención a la presión y opinión internacional de la que están prestando hoy en día.  Gaviria ya mostró su posición a favor de Chávez cuando condenó de forma apresurada el pronunciamiento de los militares disidentes el pasado Martes. En ese remitido, Gaviria condenó tanto la desobediencia civil como el no reconocimiento de la autoridad como violaciones de la Carta Democrática de la OEA, sugiriendo que los oficiales estaban atentando un golpe de Estado. El Sr. Gaviria cometió dos errores con ese comunicado, uno fue no conocer el artículo 350 de la Constitución Venezolana, el segundo fue apresurándose y condenando los hechos antes de conocer todos los detalles. De hecho, cuando el Gobierno que preside el Presidente Hugo Chávez Frías reprimió una manifestación pacifica hace dos semanas, la OEA nunca dijo nada, lo cual ha debido hacer ya que en este caso las violaciones a los Derechos Humanos violaron tanto el espíritu como la letra de la Carta Democrática.  Supuestamente, Gaviria solo recibió información del Canciller Venezolano el pasado Martes quien desde el primer momento sugirió que los oficiales disidentes  estarían tratando de dar un golpe de Estado, a pesar del claro llamado a la desobediencia civil hecha por estos oficiales desde el primer minuto, como demuestra el primer reporte que coloqué en mi pagina Web solo minutos después del pronunciamiento de los oficiales. Aunque comunicados posteriores de la OEA han mostrado algo de disculpa, estas han sido mas en la línea de advertencias al Presidente Chávez que reconocimiento de lo que esta pasando en la Plaza Altamira. Lo que esta pasando en esa plaza es un evento único merecedor del realismo mágico de una historia de García Márquez, ya que son los civiles los que salen a alentar y proteger a los oficiales militares del Gobierno..


            LA OEA es conocida por su prudencia y el caso Peruano es una clara demostración de esto, cuando la OEA solo se le volteo al Presidente Fujimori cuando se hizo público el ya famoso video del soborno. Esto a pesar de numerosas denuncias por organizaciones de Derechos Humanos, algunas de las cuales fueron hechas de forma directa a la OEA. Mas aun, los venezolanos deben estar preparados para oír comunicados del Sr. Gaviria tales como el hecho por el mucho antes de que Fujimori aceptara la celebración de nuevas elecciones:


 


Gaviria ha dicho  “no es el mandato de la misión el discutir nuevas elecciones…. Esta es una aspiración, expectativa o demanda de los grupos de oposición del país. Respetamos su posición. Ellos sin duda alguna no abandonaran su agenda, pero esta es una solicitud o meta que la misión no discutirá


 


¿Suena conocido? Estaría dispuesto a apostar que esta semana oiremos algo muy similar.


 


En realidad en el caso de Perú Fujimori era muy adepto a torcer brazos dentro de la OEA, donde solo la posibilidad de que una elección no sea reconocida por un Gobierno extranjero, aterra a los Cancilleres que supervisan como sus representantes votan en las reuniones de la OEA:


 


“En lugar de esto, Washington optó por poner el tema en discusión en la OEA donde el arreglo de los votos de Fujimori usando  presión férrea, obtuvo una recepción muy positiva. Los regimenes burgueses y corruptos de Latino América no tenían ningún interés en establecer ningún precedente basado en la legitimidad de elecciones nacionales


 


De hecho, fue el muy odiado Gobierno de los Estados Unidos que se negó a reconocer esas elecciones que eran claramente fraudulentas mientras que la OEA y los demás países Latinoamericanos fueron muy suaves con Fujimori.  La única ventaja del caso venezolano es el hecho que la mayor parte de los países latinoamericanos se quieren distanciar de Chávez como lo demostaron las recientes elecciones en Brasil y Ecuador.


Aunque algunos pueden pensar que el problema es la OEA y no Gaviria, los venezolanos tienen que tener los ojos abiertos y ser realistas de lo que pueden esperar de Gaviria. En el caso de Perú, nada menos que  el famoso escritor Mario Vargas Llosa fue muy directo cuando acuso a la OEA de complicidad con Fujimori y refiriéndose a Gaviria mismo dijo:


 


“demuestra la extraordinaria ambigüedad de la gente en su posición, que asumen una fachada neutral, frente a lo que ocurre e Perú, que es que lo que los Gobiernos democráticos responsables están dando claras evidencias de que están parcialmente a favor de la dictadura, con lo cual caen en desgracia por su vieja relación de complicidad”


 


 


El caso Peruano fue patético para la OEA. Las organizaciones de Derechos Humanos habían acusado a Fujimori y su Gobierno desde mediados de los noventa sin mucha atención por parte de la OEA, a pesar de muchas reuniones para denunciar lo que estaba ocurriendo. (Ver también carta citada arriba). Esta es la forma en la que la OEA siempre se ha comportado, como dice Luis Montero:


 


“En cosas rutinarias sin o con poca controversia la OEA funciona bien. En casos de temas de mayor perfil que involucren diferencias profundas de opinión, el proceso esta sujeto a retrasos considerables si no inmovilización”


 


Espero que los venezolanos no permitan que la visita de Gaviria los inmovilice y que encontremos una solución a la crisis política actual por nuestra cuenta. Los eventos de los últimos días pueden haber ya mostrado la salida sin ningún tipo de ayuda externa.


 



This was Cesar Gaviria on October 2nd. when he came to Venezuela and said:”I am here and I am worried”. Will he be back in a month with the same story?


 

Gaviria arrives, confrontation ahead?

October 28, 2002

As the Secretary General of the OAS arrived in Venezuela, there were clear signs that a confrontation was brewing in Venezuela. While the Government continued its attempt to disqualify the dissenting officers, three more Colonels joined them, including the cousin of who is considered one of the most powerful Generals that still supports Chavez, General Baduell. Baduell is considered to be the man behind Cahvez’ return after his brief overthrow in April.An additional National Guard Colonel also backed the dissenting officers publicly tonight.


Meanwhile, Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel kept calling the dissenting officers gorillas and coupsters as well as criticizing last night protest against the highest ranking National Guard General who went to a Restaurant only a few blocks away from Plaza Altamira where the protest is taking place. Somehow, he was discovered and a few hundred people gathered around the Restaurant to protest.  In an interesting twist to the plot, one of the dissenting Generals and the Mayor of Chacao where Plaza Altamira is located had to go and help General Gutierrez out of the Restaurant. General Gutierrez is not particularly loved by the opposition as in September he made a statement telling protesting women “to go home where you belong”.


Meanwhile Cesar Gaviria began his difficult task of promoting a dialogue between the Government and the opposition. The Government did not help today as Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel immediately rejected any possibility of a referendum saying that it was not Constitutionally feasible. He challenged any Constitutional lawyer to debate the issue, a challenge that was immediately accepted by Gerardo Blyde, a Deputy from the Primero Justicia party, who is also a Constitutional lawyer. Blyde challenged Rangel to a debate Friday morning at 10 AM at a local Hotel. And it was clear that, barring any unforeseeble events, this is where the next and maybe final battle may be brewing. If and when the opposition shows up with 2 million signatures for the consultive referendum, any rejection of that possibility by the Government or the Supreme Court will definitely lead to a General strike, as described here last night.


While Gaviria was cautious about what he said the same could not be said of the representatives from the media who met with him. Those that made statements after the meeting expressed their pessimism that Gaviria can achieve anything (Surprise, surprise!) Essentially most of the said they believed the way out of the crisis was through an election, which the Government refuses to consider. Editor Rafael Poleo, said Gaviria’s position was excessively soft. Poleo said that one of the difficulties mentioned by Gaviria was “the stubbornness of Mr. Chavez who gets furious easily which appears to scare Mr. Gaviria“. Another reporter said Gaviria was too much of a diplomat for what we need here. The members of the Democratic Coordinating group also met with Mr. Gaviria and said when they came out that they told Mr. Gaviria in no uncertain terms that the dialogue has to go through establishing a date for elections, saying the deadline for a General strike was December 4th. ( If the two million signatures are handed in by Nov. 4th. the National Electoral Commission has thirty days to answer as to the validity of the referendum.)


Thus only Gaviria can make headway with the Chavez administration on the electoral issue, all roads lead to a confrontation over whether to hold or not a referendum. To us, this will the final one, if and when we get to it.

Is there a roadmap for what is happening in Venezuela?

October 27, 2002

 


Everyone wants to know where Venezuela is headed and when and how the Venezuelan political crisis will be resolved. I believe that this is a question that is essentially impossible to answer. Events in Venezuela have by now taken a life of their own. The crowd in Altamira square grows everyday as more and more people show up twentyfour hours a day to express their support for the dissenting officers. These officers appear now to be the true leaders of the opposition as their actions have resonated with the people, who have always felt the politicians and members of the Democratic Coordinating Committee have always been too indecisive.


 


The Chavez Government appears to have gone back to a strategy of doing nothing, or at least appearing to. However, the President not only held his Sunday radio program today, but had a nationally televised speech in which continued dennouncing the small group in Altamira Square as coupsters (And the crowd was large tonight, the largest so far. Everyday the number just grows). Thus, for the moment I will assume that the Chavez Government will continue this strategy.


 


If that were the case, I would then expect two possible important events this week that may precipitate events. The first one is that, as has been rumored all weekend, six Deputies in the National Assembly may switch sides and vote to have a referendum (see previous article) asking the people whether or not they want Chavez to resign. If this happened, Chavez could then accept the vote or fight against it. I he fought it, a General strike would surely follow.


 


The second case, would be that on Novemeber 4th. the opposition plans to hold a march to the National Electoral Council with 2 million signatures requesting a referendum asking people if they want Chavez to resign. (Only a single party Primero Justicia already had 1.16 million signatures tonight, the minimum required is 1.2 million). If the Government attemps to block this referendum a general strike would also follow.


 


All of this is said with the caveats that the dynamics have a life of their own, as we saw this week. It is difficult to predict even from day to day what may happen, so other scenarios may be possible, but without having a crystal ball these two are the ones logic and information present as the more probable ones today.

Referenda and the Venezuelan Constitution

October 27, 2002

 


President Chavez regularly accuses the opposition of trying to stage a coup de etat and saying that a referendum to revoke his mandate may not be possible until August of 2003. The problem is that while the Constitution says in Article 72:


“Todos los cargos y magistraturas de elección popular son revocables. Transcurrida la mitad del período para el cual fue elegido el funcionario, un número no menor del veinticinco (25) por ciento de los electores inscritos en la correspondiente circunscripción, podrá solicitar la convocatoria de un referendo para revocar su mandato”


Which means ” All positions and magistratures which are popularly elected are revocable. After the midpoint of the term for which a functionary was elected, a number no less than than 25% of the registered voters may ask to have a referendum to revoke his mandate”


 the problem is that Article 71 also says:


“Las materias de especial trascendencia nacional podrán ser sometidas a referendo consultivo, por iniciativa del Presidente de la República en Consejo de Ministros, por acuerdo de la Asamblea Nacional, aprobado por el voto de la mayoría de los miembros de cada Cámara, o a solicitud de un número no menor del diez por ciento de los electores inscritos en el registro electoral nacional”


 


Which means:


 


“Matters of special national  transcendence may be subject to a consulting referendum , by initiative of the President in the Council with his Ministers, the National Assembly, approved by a majority or at the request of no less than 10% of the voters registered in the national electoral registry”


 


This article is the one that the opposition is using to call for a consultive referendum on whether Hugo Chavez should resign or not. The difference is just that it would not be binding if Chávez lost. But it certainly is a legal procedure that would undermine Chavez’ ability to govern if he were to lose it by a large margin, which we think he will. In fact, if the opposition convinced 50% of the Deputies in the National Asembly that would be sufficient to hold the referendum. This may yet happen.


 


A final comment is that while Hugo Chavez says the revocatory referendum may take place only after August 2003, this is not the case. The Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled that Chávez’ new term began in January 2001, thus a revocatory referendum could only take place after January 2004. This is part of the Chavez lore, where he said something once and has become the truth even if it isn’t.


 


(Warning: The articles of the Constitution cited above may depend on the version you consult, yes there are multiple versions of the Venezuelan Constitution. If you use Google, the first one says they are article 75 and 74, the next one 72 and 71 and they are both Government websites. Thanks to Antonio Guzman Blanco for reminding me that one has to be extremely careful with this.)

Venezuelans should not let the OAS and Cesar Gaviria immobilize them

October 27, 2002

 

While Venezuelans have high expectations of the possible impact of the upcoming visit by the Secretary General of the OAS, the experience of Peru indicates that the OAS will contribute little to finding a solution and Venezuelans should pay less attention to international opinion and pressure than what they are doing today. Gaviria already showed a stance in Chavez’ favor when he was too quick to condemn the pronouncement by the military officials last Tuesday. In that statement, Gaviria condemned both civil disobedience and not recognizing authority as violations of the OAS’ Democratic Letter, suggesting the officers were trying to attempt a coup. There were two mistakes in Mr. Gaviria’s statemennt, one not knowing Article 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution, the second was jumping the gun and condemning the event before he knew all the details. In fact, when the Chavez Government repressed a peaceful demonstration two weeks ago the OAS never said anything, which it should have, and in that case the human rights violation did violate both the letter and the spirit of the OAS’ democratic letter. Reportedly, Gaviria only received input from the Venezuelan foreign Minister last Tuesday, who from the first moment suggested the officers were attempting a coup, despite their clear call for civil disobedience a call that was clear from minute one, as demonstrated by my first post on the subject only minutes after the first statement was made by the military officers. While later statements by the OAS have shown regret since then, they had warnings to the Chavez administration but little recognition of what is taking place in Altamira Square. Whta is happening in Altamira has to be recognized as a unique event, worthy of the magic realism of a Garcia Marquez story as civilians come out to cheer and protect high-ranking military officers from the Goverment.


            TheOAS is known for acting with prudence and the Peruvian case was a showcase of this, when the OAS only turned on the Fujimori Government once the famous videotape was public. This, despite many claims by Human Rights organizations of rights violations. Some in fact were made directly to the OAS. Moreover, Venezuelans should be getting ready to hear statements from Mr. Gaviria such as that made by him well before Fujimori agreed to have new elections:


 


Gaviria has stated that “it is not this mission’s mandate to discuss new elections…This is an aspiration, expectation or demand of the country’s opposition groups….We respect their position. They undoubtedly will not abandon their agenda, but that is a request or goal that this mission will not address,”


 


Sound familiar? I bet we hear the same this week


 


In fact in the case of Peru, Fujimori was quite adept at arm twisting within the OAS, where just the possibility of not recognizing an election by foreign Governments throws fears into the elected officials who supervise how Foreign Ministers vote at OAS meetings:


 


“Instead, Washington opted for putting the issue before the OAS. There, Fujimori’s iron-fisted vote rigging got a fairly sympathetic reception. Latin America’s corrupt bourgeois regimes had no interest in seeing any precedents set on the legitimacy of national elections.”


 


In fact, it was only the much-maligned US Government that refused to recognize those elections, which were clearly fraudulent, while the OAS and Latin American countries were soft on Fujimori. The only advantage in Venezuela’s case is the fact that most Latin American Government’s want to distance themselves from Chávez and his policies as recent elections in Brazil and Ecuador show.


While some may think that the problem is with the OAS and not with Gaviria, Venezuelans should open their eyes and be realistic as to what to expect. In the case of Peru, none other than famous writer Maria Vargas Llosa was quite blunt when he accused the OAS of is complicity with Fujimori and referring to Gaviria himself


 


“demonstrates the extraordinary ambiguity of people in his position, who assume a neutral facade, in the face of what is going on in Peru, which is that all the responsible democratic governments are doing, what very clearly indicates their partiality in favor of the dictatorship, with whom they are disgraced by their old complicit relationship”


 


 


The Peruvian case was a pathetic one for the OAS. Human Rights organizations had been accusing Fujimori and his Government from the mid-nineties without much action on the part of the OAS, despite many meetings to denounce what was happening. (see letter above too). This is the way the OAS has always been, as Luis Montero says:


 


“On routine matters with little or no controversy the OAS works well. On higher profile issues involving profound differences of opinion, the process is prone to some considerable stalling, if not immobilization”


 


Hopefully, Venezuelans will not allow the Gaviria visit to immobilize them and they will find a solution to the current political crisis on their own. The events of the last days may just show the way out of this wothout external help.

Government backs down, Chavez’ pilot jumps ship and military corruption

October 26, 2002

As the crowds in Plaza Altamira grew larger and the atmosphere became quite festive, the Chavez Government backed down somewhat from its tough position when both the Vice-President and the Attorney General said that Friday’s decision by a control judge was illegal and ordes had been given to the police not to attempt to detain neither the officers nor the civilians who have invoked civil disobedience.


Meanwhile the Chief pilot of Chavez’ brand new $65 million dollar Airbus, jumped ship and joined the dissenting officers in Altamira not before accusing the President of corruption for using the Presidential and other planes to transport family members of the President and other government officials in private junkets as well as transporting Chavez’ bolivarian circles.


In another clear act of corruption, the Minisiter of Defense sent a memo to all officers saying it was obligatory to participate in a christmas music festival organized by the military to entertain the “community” of Chavez’ party sympathizers MVR. The Minister of Defense was also accused of corruption when he was President of INCE, before becoming Minister.


Long live Chavez’ corrupt revolution!

Plaza Altamira pictures Night and Day

October 26, 2002


After the largest crowd last night, it thinned somewhat in the morning, but it is growing now. Above two pictures from last night at about 2 AM when it was quite crowded and this morning at 11 AM from similar angles. The Government is threatening to jail on Monday both civilians and military leaders that have appeared on the stage set in the plaza. A high risk strategy as the crowd will make it difficult and if nothing happens the Government will look powerless.

Justice in the Chavez Revolution

October 25, 2002

A judge ordered the 43 active military officers who are invoking Article 350 of the Constitution arrested. According to the judge, the Constitutional thread has been “partially broken” in what may become one of the most hilarious charges in Venezuela’s judicial history. To make it even more folkloric, the judge said the arrests will not take place until Monday, because “I am not on duty on weekends”. One of the lawyers of one of the officers said he would seek an injunction fron the Courts as the Constitution states that high-ranking military officers can only be tried by the Supreme Court.


I agree with my brother the Tyromaniac, let them try to arrest them:


 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,599 other followers