My brother asks why I have barely talked about the indefinite General Strike called for December 2nd. The reason is simple, I believe Dec. 2nd. is a long way away and many things may happen before then, for better or for worse. Thus my brief mention two days ago that the Government had gained a repreive by having the strike postponed for one week.
The truth is that the combination of the Gaviria mediated dialogue with the submission of 2 million signatures to request the referendum has put the Government in a very tough position. By sitting down to talk, it is being exposed in front of international opinion for what we knew they are, a double-talking, cynical administration capable of twisting the truth and the law to remarkable extremes. Moreover, it has also shown the divisions in the line of power, it was clear that most of the members of the Government’s negotiation team had no idea about the planned intervention of the Metropolitan police. Aditionally, it is also clear that while they would like to look for an alternative electoral solution, they are not allowed to even begin talking about it. Thus, time is working against the administration. If the Electoral Commission (CNE) rules the referendum valid and there is no interference with the CNE this week, the strike would be called off and all efforts will be focused on the referendum. Such is the beauty of the threat for the strike, if the referendum request is blocked, the strike will be a resounding success, if not it will be cancelled. At the same time, by postponing the strike a week, the opposition has shown to Gaviria it is willing to given in a little, while the Chavez administration has not yielded on anything. On the contrary, it has interfered with the negotiations with its actions.
Separately there is the issue of the Supreme Court ruling on the injunction requested by Caracas’ opposition mayors against the intervention of the Metropolitan police. If the Court were to rule that there is no evidence of illegality in the intervention, this will simply fuel the will of the for a time well in the future or rule in favor of the opposition, dealing a sharp setback to the radicals in the Chavez administartion and his ability to govern.
There is an additional option, the possibility that, as usual, Chavez will do something that will confront even more, leading the country closer to the boiling point.
Clearly, tensions will ease dramatically if the referendum is allowed to proceed this week, as it should. It is not a recall referendum, it asks that the President voluntarily resign, thus it can’t possible collide with the Constitution as a Chavez resignation is a perfectly legal act. What is most interesting is that an electoral solution could not be negotiated anyway as the request of a specific referendum by 2 million people can not be changed at will by either party. Only a negotiation leading first to the resignation of the President would make the referendum request unnecessary.