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.

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