Once in a while I receive an e-mail that makes me feel like I may be wasting my time trying to explain to the world what is happening in Venezuela. On second thought, I realize that people tend to be quite superficial and the amount of material as well as the chronological order of this weblog makes it difficult for someone who discovers it, to go back and read every post. But these e-mails are also useful in that it allows me to go back and say things that are buried in the many pages I have written since I began, most of which even I may have a difficult time pinpointing exactly where they are.
A certain Mr. Cassio Lira, whom I surmise is from Brazil writes:
“Miguel, your weblog is a very well crafted attempt to show ONE part of the
question. You should mention that the last time the anti-Chavez opposition
in Venezuela took power, some months ago, they closed the Congress and
installed a OpusDei-led dictatorship. Their Pinochet-inspired regime only
lasted for one day, but clarified the situation for observers around the
A 70 or 80% disaproval rate for the president is a very common thing in
democracies, although it doesn’t follow that elections shoud be called every
time it happens.
However, considering the situation, I really hope there are elections next
year – and that Chavez wins. What will you do then? Call the CIA to finish
him off, like they did with Arbenz, Goulart, Allende, etc?
What a shame :-(
First of all, I have mentioned what happened in April and I have been critical of the turn of events, but I have also explained exactly what happened and the chronology is important. In April, Hugo Chavez resigned a fact that was announced by the Inspector General of the Armed Forces, who became Minister of Defense upon Mr. Chavez’ return. After Mr. Chavez left, a Government was named chosen mainly by two Generals, this Government issued a decree that did indeed violate the country’s Constitution. Interestingly enough, the first decree that shut down Congress was rewritten six hours later reversing that decision, indicating that the brief Carmona Governemnt understood its mistakes and was willing to change, something that can not be said about Hugo Chavez and his regime.
Accusing that brief Government of being “Opus-Dei-led Pinochet style dictatorship” is absurd. One Cabinet post was held by a highly regarded Social-Christian who happens to be a member of Opus Dei, but in a 17 member Cabinet, this is far from being Opus-Dei led. In fact, there is one member of Mr. Chavez’ Cabinet (Curiously in the same position) who was a member of the same organization and nobody seems to even note it. As to the term Pinochet-style dictatorship, that first decree established that there would be elections within 12 months, so it can’t be the absence of democracy that that the term refers to. It must then mean that somehow these people were ready to violate individual’s Human Rights, kill people or jail them without charges. Well, interestingly, the officers that asked Hugo Chavez to resign in April, including the two that were part of the brief Government later, refused to obey the orders of Hugo Chavez to execute a repressive plan called “Plan Avila” against the peaceful demonstration that day (A Court in The Hague has ruled that Plan violates people’s rights). Curiously, once again, none of them (thirteen total) has ever been accused or charged of violating anybody’s Human or Civil rights. In contrast, two of the most powerful Generals in the current Government, Generals Garcia Carneiro and Acosta Carles, have repeatedly been accused of violating both in the last few months, weeks and days. Moreover, General Rosendo, Chavez’ close aide until the April events, testified in Congress that he was present at a meeting where Mr. Chavez discussed how to repress the April march. There are videos which show officials of Chavez’ MVR party shooting at the peaceful march and it took an order from the Venezuelan Supreme Court to jail only two of them despite the clear proof of their actions. It is Chavez’ MVR party which has refused to appoint a “Truth Commission” to establish what happened in April. My dear friend, Hugo Chavez is closer to Augusto Pinochet’s style than any of those that participated in the brief, irresponsible and stupid, Carmona Government in April. For proof, you only have to go back a couple of weeks and read the links on the decision by the OAS Human Rights Commission against the Hugo Chavez Government or read what the Minister of Planning said today (link below) or the attack on the media last week (all documented by the way).
The current political crisis is not due to Chavez’ high dissaproval rate. Rafael Caldera had a similarly high rating in 1996 and, curiosuly except for Hugo Chavez himself, nobody was asking for Caldera to leave. (Somewhere in this blog I have two video clips in which Hugo Chavez literally says” if a million people take to the streets asking me to resign, I would).
The problem is that Hugo Chavez ran for President criticizing the previous 40 years of democracy. People believed he would reduce crime, improve the economy, make the country more just and democratic and eliminate corruption. Instead, Hugo Chavez has devoted himself to obtaining the tightest possible control of the whole Government, including a Constitution written for him, a Supreme Court named by a “temporary” Congress with no legal bases and a “revolution” whose content appears to be he is the law and his military cronies can do anything they want. Meanwhile 40% of the companies in the private sector have shutdown and despite the largest oil income in any four year period of the country’s history, eight out of the last sixteen quarters have shown economic contraction and GDP this year is likely to contract by 7- 8%. Legality does not exist, the consultative referendum has been challenged twice by Chavez and the Supreme Court has rejected the cases both times. Despite this, the Government refuses to fund it. Last week eight judges of the Supreme Court suspended all work until the Government stops persecuting and pressuring them. Chavez Government is simply no longer legitimate.
What we have in Venezuela is a total rebellion by the people against Chavez and his revolution, called now “robolucion”, for “robar” the Spanish word for stealing. People (close to 80%!)now dislike everything Chavez stands for, including trickery, treachery and corruption. They are so fed up, that millions march four hours a day, everyday, go home have dinner and then go out again in pot-banging marches that last one to two hours every night. They are so fed up, that the private sector has been on strike 21 days, in the best season of the year for business. 90% of oil workers are on strike, university students and all unions are also on strike. Weird isn’t it? A leftist Government with no union or student support.
If Chavez wins the election, we will become like Cuba, but he can only win by cheating, which is quite possible. You give a list which includes Goulart, Allende..etc.., Why not, Hitler, Noriega, Hussein. It offends you? Is not a shame, its the truth, Hugo Chavez is a bizarre cocktail of left-wing ideas, with right-wing facist militarism, which in my mind is closer to Pinochet than anyone I can think of. Read the decrees he had ready when he tried a coup in 1992 (They used to be in the MBR200 website, but they have dissapeared), had he succeeded he would have outdone Pinochet many times over. Is there a risk of an undesirable Government taking over if Chavez leaves? Yes, Chavez’ stubborness and refusal to respect the law and democracy creates that risk, but we are willing and desperate to take it.
(Technical note: Elections can be called anytime the Constitution of a country allows them, each democracy has its own rules. In a Parlamentary system, which is democratic, 70-80% dissaproval usually leads to elections. In Venezuela’s Constitution 10% of the electorate can request a referendum on any legal question, the Supreme Court has ruled the question requested by 16.5% of the electorate is legal (Roughly it says: do you want Hugo Chavez to voluntarily resign?). A recall referendum may only take place after the half point of the term. The term here is six years, Chavez has been in power four years already. BUT, after the new Constitution was enacted, he decided he had to run again (Yes, there was no reason for him to do it, he decided it, a la Louis XV). The Court interpreted that the “half term” was half term of the new term, not three years, which seemed more logical)