A REELECTION DEBATE IN VENEZUELA?
By Daniel Duquenal
Sunday 11, July 2004 - Chavez is baiting with talks of running again, Mercosur, Bush and what not. Among Chavez many activities and uttered words while at the Mercosur summit, one took the front lines in Venezuela: he declared that even if he were to be recalled on August 15, he would be running for reelection 30 days after, to complete his term until 2006. My surprise is not that he said that, readers of this blog know that I am expecting the whole thing to either end up in a general election or a coup. My surprise was the reaction of most of the Venezuelan media. The only conclusion is that after 5 years too many in the opposition have still no idea who they are dealing with.
The real facts
The 1999 Constitution is an ill written, not to say sloppily written document. Apparently, the only ones that cannot run for office after having been revoked are the National Assembly representatives. Indeed, it is sheer logic that someone whose electoral mandate has been revoked should not run for office again, at least not right then (1). But in this land of wonders there is nothing legally written to stop president Chavez to run again the day after his revocation. The head of the High Court has said so in an interview to El Nacional this Saturday.
The outraged opposition has screamed legal fraud. The talk on these last three days was concentrated on that announcement of Chavez, not on Venezuela knock at Mercosur's door and the probable consequences for us, not on his actions in Buenos Aires where his support for the "Piqueteros" probably greatly upset president Kirchner, or not even on the implied confession of weakness as Chavez is considering that indeed he could lose the recall election and is already gearing for August 16!
This is truly dismaying for me, so many people in the opposition still arguing stupid legal aspects when in front of them there is a government that is laughing at laws while making sure that it packs the High Court with its supporters, to keep laughing at justice for years and years.
My reading of the whole thing
Since I am sure that this page is very widely read by the leaders of the opposition, in particular by the ones that are willing to discuss anything stupid in order to make it to the talk shows, I will freely offer knowledge and advice. What comes next is very simplistic of course, but I am trying to get to the very core of the beast so I must be direct. I also must make very clear that the term "chavista", as used below, is only descriptive of the people that are holding office today, it does not describe the large mass of Chavez supporters that are still fooled by them.
What is chavismo?
Chavismo is a movement that started as an agglomeration of all sorts of ideological currents and empirical opportunists seeking a job. It has decanted now into a pseudo socialist regime, authoritarian in character and methods, where those who count for anything are mostly those that originally joined for opportunistic reasons. In other words it has all the background for a political movement motivated more by looting the public treasury than really creating a new state. Or at most a state pliable to their whims and fancy. The welfare of the people, in a socialist sense, is a mere excuse to reach and hold on to power.
Who is Chavez?
We have a term in Venezuela that can be used for people like Chavez: resentido social. We apply this for people who resent society for any reason and seek to take revenge for real, and more often, imaginary woes. In general these people share one characteristic: they refuse to take responsibility for their actions and are always ready to blame whomever they can for their failures. If Chavez comes indeed from a rather broken and poor family, it is still a fact that the Venezuelan state allowed him to get an education to the point where he could lead a military coup in 1992, and a state democratic enough that it allowed him to be elected president in 1998 when instead he should have been rotting in jail.
How do chavistas think, in politics?
They do not think like normal democratic people. For them, it is their turn at the bat, to recuperate decades of having been left on the side. It never occurs to them that if they did not participate to the previous corruption of the 4th Republic, it was because they were just too incompetent to be hired for anything.
For them democracy was a convenient way to reach power, benefiting from an unusual historical circumstance. Now they plan to stay in office, forever if possible. In addition, having presided the most corrupt administration in our notably corrupt history they know that if Chavez leaves office a few of them will go to jail, or to a golden exile for the rest of their life.
It is to be expected that these people, including their great leader, will not play by the democratic rules accepted in most countries today. They will use every trick that they can get away with it, this being of course the XXI century where the whole world watches over, and wants at least the fig leaf of legality on any governmental action. Ethics are an unknown word for chavistas; expediency is all. For them it makes perfect sense that if Chavez is revoked he can run again and, benefiting from a divided opposition, he could reach office again with a mere 40% of the vote. They do not care if Chavez wins by a single vote or a million, in their world the winner takes all and winning is the only thing that matters.
This mentality is closer to a street gang that took over Miraflores Palace than to a normal left wing democratic movement (2).
That is why they have no qualms, no ethical hangup, no morals in packing all the judicial offices from the General Prosecutor to the General Comptroller; why they are packing, again (3), the High Court; why they shamelessly shut down any opposition initiative in parliament; why they use the oil revenue outside the budgetary process; why they have no qualms in financially starving opposition mayors and governors, resulting in severe cutbacks for the people; why they are creating a separate welfare system for their followers, letting the existing one go to seed, etc, etc... it is all theirs and too bad for the others!
Quite simple really.
What should the opposition do (in particular the professional talk show attendants)?
To begin with, stop being reactive to whatever Chavez hurls at them. By now they should know better.
Chavez is going to have a nasty campaign, thus calling for love and reconciliation as the only motor of the opposition campaign is not going to work. They should take a page from the Clinton campaigns and let nothing go unanswered, but also do not let it obsess their minds and take over the agenda. For example, a few things that could have been first priority on Friday and Saturday:
1) complain about the Mercosur entry and say that it is as detrimental for the Venezuelan economy as the ALCA would be, that instead of surrendering our economy to the USA we are going to surrender to Brazil, that jobs will be lost (joining either block has merits but Venezuela should get in neither without a real bipartisan debate and policy)
2) talk about Chavez intervening in other countries affairs while he claims the US is intervening in Venezuela
3) talk about the abuse of cadenas to the point that even pro Chavez CNE felt compelled to say something.
4) talk about Chavez decrying the opposition electoral offering as written by Bush by saying that his own is written by Castro (I know, it is cheap but effective)
5) talk about yet another electoral chavista defeat in campus, when chavismo did not manage to send its candidate to the run off election of Zulia main campus. (4)
Talk about the High Court packing or whether Chavez should run again for office. Do you honestly think that the people that are receiving direct hand outs or services from Chavez "misiones", people that are at the lower positions of the social scale, people that never had access to justice, will care whether the High Court is packed or not? They are blasť and the only thing they may care about is what Chavez will give them, and what will the opposition give them if they make it to office.
(1) Read the editorial from Sol Maria Castro on a fired CEO applying for his job a month after his firing, a journey through absurdity.
(2)Actually all the historical democratic left in Venezuela has long ago abandoned chavismo.
(3)The High Court was packed once in 2000 but enough Justices showed independence of mind that it had become a precarious 10/10 split on some issues. The latest maneuvering has brought it to 12/8 for Chavez with the possibility to increase this to higher levels with the new law that rules the high Court.
(4) With the electoral defeat in LUZ, chavismo has been soundly beaten, disastrously beaten one could say, in the three largest public university campus in Venezuela, illustrating how the thinking country has abandoned the fake revolution. The only institutions that are with Chavez are minor or newer campus that look for funding and that are still directly under the thumb of the Venezuelan administration.
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