As the ratification of “reparo” process approaches, the people of Venezuela expect this to be something like the final battle in this long and drawn out process. I wish they were right, but think they aren’t. The truth is that this is simply another stage in a long battle.
Unless there is widespread cheating, the numbers seem to favor the opposition. 1.19 million people will have to go to the polls between Friday, Saturday and Saturday to ratify their signatures. The opposition needs only 540 thousand to reach the magical number of 2.43 million required to activate the recall referendum. But in this tortuous and maquiavellian route designed by the Government, there is of course the possibility of thousands showing up to withdraw their signatures. The only question is whether they will show up and if they do, whether there will be enough of them to stop the recall.
Unless there is massive fraud, this appears unlikely. Sumate does not expect in an extreme scenario more than 100,000 people to withdraw the signatures, which would mean that if 50% of the remaining people show up to ratify or “repair” the signature, the opposition would have won.
And it shows, the almost hysterical behavior of CNE Director Rodriguez coupled with the one and only appearance in many months by Director Battaglini to announce a shameful decision based on unknown “intelligence” by the military not to allow the opposition to have information centers near the polling stations, clearly indicate a sense of desperation among the pro-Chavez forces.
Rodriguez by now has lost all credibility he may have had at some remote point in time. A simple letter by Roger Noriega, the undersecretary of State, generated a reaction out of proportion with Noriega’s remarks if one compares them to Chŗvez’ statements in the last few weeks about the US and Venezuela. After all, Noriega is simply reiterating charges made not only by the opposition but also by many of the international organizations that have been part of the observation process in Venezuela.
Similarly, Chavez carefully written letter to the Washington post, could not even pass the examination of a newspaper that not long ago was writing washy washy articles about Venezuela. (For complete coverage, interpretation and detail of these, you can read Francisco Toro’s blog, where he exquisitely dissects Chavez’ letter, interpreting the true meaning of his words). While Chavez accuses “coup leaders” of telling the world in April 2002 that he had resigned, he neglects to convey the small piece of information that the particular “coup leader” he is talking about, the only man that announced Chavez’ resignation, is today his Minister of Interior and Justice Lucas Rincon. He also centers on the threats against his own life, which would only prove how incapable the opposition that held him for two days was, that they failed to kill him, despite the fact that he was unarmed and handcuffed. But like the dozens of attempts on Chŗvez’ they life, they seem to mainly exist in his warped mind.
Meanwhile, Chavez puppets in the National Assembly and the so-called Comando Ayacucho, also attempted to make some noise by calling for the resignation of the Executive Secretary of the OAS and Cesar Gaviria alter ego, Fernando Jaramillo.
Both Jaramillo and Gaviria responded with diplomatic letters, saying we understand your concerns but you can shove it because we saw this same movie in Peru and we know how you feel, we talked to Montesinos and Fujimori quite a bit then, but we know where you are coming from. We looked like fools then and really would not like to repeat our sorry performance there. In fact, we would like to forget about it. This time around I will arrive tomorrow and will not leave with my tail between my legs like I did in Peru.
The truth is that this is only part of the slow process called the Bolivarian revolution. Despite the negative perception of Venezuelans with respect to the ratification, we expect them to be successful. Sometimes it seems that Chavez is less willing to have a rupture with international opinion that some of his supporters. Thus, the sort of massive cheating required this weekend to abort the recall is unlikely to take place.
We expect at this time, to have the recall activated at which time a new stage will begin for both the Government and the opposition. It will be like staring the whole process again. The first trick to be activated by the Chavistas will be attempts to have the recall take place after August 19th. in this manner Chavez VP would take over for him. This will be done by delaying the recall and represents at this time one of the easiest tasks by the CNE. If this were to fail, then the strategy would shift to attempt to block the opposition from obtaining the 3.7 million votes it requires to activate the recall. The task is in fact not that simple, after all, Chavez himself only received 3.7 million votes in the heyday of his popularity.
If the opposition were successful in this attempt, then Chavez himself would seek to participate in the election by having the Supreme Court “clarify” that he can run. Then, even if he lost (his best scenario?), Chavez will be a candidate to succeed the opposition candidate elected right after the recall.
Nothing is simple in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Everything actually moves in slow motion, very slow motion. It is perhaps one of the great ironies of the revolution that Chavez could have taken it all in the first two years of his administration. When he had the backing of 70-80% of Venezuelans, even those that did not vote for him, he could have done what he has tried to do since then. People forget how fast Fidel acted in Cuba. Even before he declared himself a communist, he was eliminating the future opposition. Chavez can no longer do that here, the opposition is strong and united, the world is watching. Unfortunately for us and Venezuela, this is a process in slow motion that will continue to drag on without a final resolution for perhaps many years. Next week Venezuelans in the opposition will likely realize that they are back to December when they thought they had won, but it was only the beginning of one long drawn out process full obscure obstacles. A new process starts next week, until the next one.