Chavez’ popularity unraveling, but let him soak in his own failures for a while

January 27, 2008

While Chavez continued saber rattling Colombia, his former Minister of
Defense Raul Baduel sent a message to that country not to pay attention to
what Hugo Chavez may say. It was a remarkable statement from Chavez’ former
buddy, but one had to see beyond the message itself.

More than
talking to the Colombians, Baduel was likely sending also a message to the
Venezuelan military, the same military officers that had to exert pressure
on Dec. 2nd. to have Chavez accept his defeat in the Constitutional
referendum, to not pay attention to their own Commander in Chief’s attempt
to distract the attention of the people form the mess Chavez has
created.

And one hears daily the rumblings not only from the people,
but more and more from his own collaborators and remarkably, from Hugo
Chavez himself. In the middle of his threats against Colombia, Chavez now
regularly sprinkles his speeches with rants and loud statements about his
Governments inability to accomplish anything, as if he were not the Chief
of State but some sort of outside comptroller checking things
out.

What is remarkable and somewhat worrisome is the speed at which
the results of the December 2nd. referendum have unraveled the Chavez
Government. Chavez’ popularity is sharply down as the image of invnecibility
he had is now gone. But more importantly, there is no longer the fear of
speaking out or of being discriminated for speaking out. In fact, unlikely
other electoral processes, there has been no punishment or even threats
against those that did not vote and the former Chavez supporters that voted
No in December have not felt any indication that anyone knows their
vote.

The fact is the loss was so unexpected that Chavismo is still
trying to come to terms with it so it has not had the time to organize any
action against the voters, because it is more concerned about whether the
Government’s popularity can be brought back to its former levels. Moreover,
many of the fanatics who organized the discrimination campaigns in the past
are no longer around, they actually voted No.

And as they try to do
prop up Chavez, they find that events are unraveling at their own speed
with shortages widespread and the monetary reconversion creating another
spike in inflation, creating a very negative atmosphere against the
Government. In fact, polls continue to show a drop in the Government’s
popularity, beyond what was expected initially from the December
defeat.

And the question is how can truly the Government raise its
popularity? Chavez continues to shoot from the hip daily. Sometimes
at Colombia, other he says he will raise food prices, the next day he says
he will finance food purchases at Mercal. But the truth is that between the
gas subsidy, the food subsidy and the mismanagement, the Government
voracity has bn such that little has been accomplished and now desperate
measures with possible falling oil prices are unlikely to yield any quick
results. And with the economy strained by the bad policies of the last few
years, any new policies are likely to slowdown, not move the economy,
creating further backlash.

And I begin to get concerned at the speed
at which things are unraveling for the autocrat. I hope Hugo Chavez is in
charge to witness the effects of all of the mismanagement of the last few
years. I hope he rides his unpopularity to the lowest possible lows and is
blamed for nine lost years of progress, as he has essentially damaged the
Venezuelan economy through incompetence, fanaticism and ignorance. I want him
to be alone as his buddies defect one by one, money in their suitcases,
leaving him ranting into empty spaces day after day.

Only then,
should he be allowed to leave and face the courts for his mismanagement,
corruption and human rights violations.

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