Up to now, the Chavez Government has been careful in controlling violent outbursts while OAS Secretary General and mediator Cesar Gaviria has been here. This has been part of the two-faced strategy of promoting the Chavez administration as a good citizen of the international community. Well, the strategy lasted until today when very violent demonstrations took place in downtown Caracas which resulted in one person dead and ten injured. This is an indication of the deterioration of general conditions as well as the apparent loss of control by the Government over the Bolivarian circles.
It all began in the morning, when cops from the metropolitan police who are striking blocked the main access to the city council building. A group of 25 people took over the building where the Mayor of the Metropolitan area, the Governor of Miranda state Enrique Mendoza and other members of the democratic coordinating committee were meeting. According to former Governor of Merida state William Davila, all was well while tear gas was being used but suddenly shots were fired from outside the building forcing the police and the National Guard to act. Demonstrators moved their protest to other areas of Caracas where violence continued until sunset. The Government was quick to blame the Mayor of the Metropolitan area in another attempt to blame violence on the opposition, but it was clear that shots were fired by the violent demonstrators and not the police or the National Guard. The Mayor said that when he went to the local hospital where many of the injured were taken, he was almost lynched by a crowd led by opposition deputy Iris Varela. As usual the Government said it would investigate fully the violent acts of today.
Gaviria was forceful today in condemning the violence while being diplomatic about it. Said Gaviria: “a certain level of impunity is being planted in Venezuela with respect to some violent events and a custom that such events sometimes are never clarified”. Clearly, he was putting the Government on the spot. The Government accused the opposition of playing a double game while appearing to be doing the same when it wrote a letter to the UN General Secretary criticing the opposition. Such a strategy takes away from the dialogue being promoted in Caracas by Gaviria and may represent a strategy of eventually disqualifying Gavirai as a mediator if talks fail or if Gaviria begins criticizing the Government’s negotiating position.
Meanwhile the negotiations seemed to be stalled somewhat today as the Government continued to make accusations against the opposition while the opposition mantains its stance that the only negotiations are about the elections as the Nov. 4th. request for a referendum is a process based on the Constitution and can not be stopped. Apparently the Government has even questioned the Declaration of Principles signed by Vice-President Rangel in October which set the stage for the negotiations.