In a strategic move, Chavez informally breaks relations with Colombia as the race heats up once again

November 28, 2007

Hugo Chavez broke relationships
at least informally today with Colombia, saying that a long as Alvaro
Uribe remains as President of that country; he will have no relations
with him. It was a somewhat dramatic end to the spat between Chavez and
Uribe, which began when Uribe decided to stop Chavez mediation into releasing some of the hostages in the hands of Colombias FARC.
 
While
Uribe used very strong words yesterday when he announced the end of the
mediation, Chavez got personal yesterday* in his response, calling the Colombian President a sad pawn of the North American Empire. Uribe was more indirect today, saying that
Presidents have to respect their people rather than thinking about
vanities and anger. But then, in what appears to be carefully
calculated words, Chavez made his new statement about relations between
the two countries.
 
Sp far, the statement has
not been formalized as policy as the whole reaction, like so many
delayed reactions in Chavez part, seems to be a carefully thought out
plan to gain votes on Sundays referendum. While the trends in polls
had been in favor of Chavez proposed reform being defeated on Sunday,
with the NO gaining ground with remarkable speed, this trend was broken
by the initial spat with Uribe last week. As I suggested in my previous
post, some pollsters had detected a reversal of the trend, which can
apparently be traced back to the incident between the two Presidents.
Remarkably, the popularity of both Presidents was actually boosted by
the bickering; as nationalistic sentiments were awaken by the conflict.  Thus, Chavez seemed to be looking for a quick fix to his weakling position in the polls.
 
While
the strategy has very negative consequences long term, Chavez
immediate needs are more important. Colombia is Venezuelas second most
important trading partner after the United States and provides many
basic foodstuffs at a time of widespread shortages with some basic
items.
 
At the same time one has to wonder
about whether the initial spike in popularity may be offset Chavezs
stronger words now, particularly among the large voter population of
Colombian origin in Venezuela, but we are sure pollsters that are
advising the President have taken that into consideration.
 
And
as the date of the vote approached, activity picked up, with the last
opposition group siding with abstention, the Comando de La
Resistencia gave up its long standing stance against voting with a rigged system.
 
But
the largest opposition to Chavez seemed to be coming from Chavezs
former supporters in Podemos, General Baduel and even his former wife,
who once again held a press conference, asking for forgiveness from the
people for the damage she may have caused by supporting her former
husband and calling the proposed reform treason and illegal.
 
But the most symbolic one may have been Baduels statement
in which Chavez former buddy and Minister of Defense not only charged
Chavez with changing the ideal of the Bolivarian revolution, but also
seemed to be talking directly to the military about their role not as
arbiters but to defend the Constitution jointly with the people.
Baduel called once again for people to vote No on Sunday and to go and
vote, trying to occupy in our minds the role as a possible figurehead
for Chavismo without Chavez in case the outcome on Sunday is not
respected, should the NO come out ahead. Clearly, the former Minister
of Defense had early knowledge of the surge in the NO and was trying to
position himself for the eventuality of a NO victory or the
interference by the Government with the results.
 
Thus,
with barely three days left for the vote, things continue to heat up
and strategies are being implemented with little time for preparation.
Tomorrow the opposition led by the student movement, closes its NO
campaign with a rally in Avenida Bolivar in downtown Caracas to be
followed on the same location the next day by Chavez and his SI
supporters. There will be no more polls that can be publicly released
and one can expect more violence, as well as more foolish decisions such as the Electoral Board opening an investigation on the church, while pro-Chavez campaign is outrageously biased in his favor in Government TV stations. 
 
By
now, whatever internal polls and trends may be saying, may be set in
stone in any case, as the most important factor, whether voters decide
or not to go to vote on Sunday, is what will likely tip the scales on
Sunday. Unfortunately, the Government has the resources, the tools and
the ability to coerce, which the opposition lacks, which may be enough
to tip the scales in its favor, even if the NO is ahead.

*While little noticed in the noise, Chavez “pawn” statement against Colombia’s President was made at an event celebrating the 15th. year anniversary nof the Nov. 1992 coup which Chavez supported, even if he was not able to participate as he was in jail at the time. This from the man who accuses everyone of plotting against democracy, while he celebrates such acts. Some democrat, no?

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