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Venezuela's opposition cracks open Hugo Chavez's fortress

By Aleksander Boyd

London 28.08.06 | Whilst the master of the manor franticly gives away 'his resources' in far away lands, back home his opposition has cracked his fortress open. Whilst he was caressing and looking at his revered dictator affectionately, back home the military in charge of the most secure military prison just opened the door and set free his most dreaded enemy. For Carlos Ortega's walk was no mere prison escape; he was set free. Forget about intricate tunnel digs, clever discharge mechanisms, heroic deeds and spectacular stunts a la Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. None of that took place in Ramo Verde, from where Ortega and 3 other high ranking military officers walked ten hours before any alarm was raised. Internal complicity? readers may ask. You bet!

Any person familiar with the structure of the prison knows that without internal assistance is practically impossible to escape from Ramo Verde. But what does this particular incident tells us? A few things. Firstly it demystifies the premise that Venezuela's military is squarely behind Chavez. Secondly it demonstrates that discontentment levels towards the caudillo in some military quarters has reached such levels that some are prepared to challenge the establishment. Thirdly it exposes the failure of Chavez's communist brain-washing antics within the military. Fourthly it reveals a degree of respect to the rule of law in some army men, for everyone in Venezuela knows that all escapees were imprisonned on trumped up charges.

The cracks however did not stop there. We then saw a chavista mayor totally losing the plot, spitting at other elected officials and openly making calls for lynching to a frenzied mob that was only too happy to clap and laugh all along this most disturbing spectacle.

The conventional wisdom that Chavez's latest world tour amounts to nothing more than a crass attempt at buying votes for a UN's Security Council seat is firmly set in international circles. Most certainly Chavez's own denial that the trip was planned for such purpose does not help his cause either [Excusatio non petita accusatio manifesta]. To boot the caudillo himself said that China would lend support to his bid, however Chinese official are yet to comment on it.

Another interesting aspect is the concerted effort by Chinese, Cuban and Venezuelan propaganda organs spreading the news that Venezuela's opposition is far from united around the candidacy of Manuel Rosales. As any observer knows by now there are only two candidates that could give Chavez -should electoral officials upheld current norms and legislation- a run for his money: Benjamin Rausseo (a.k.a. El Conde del Guacharo) and Zulia state governor Manuel Rosales.

Benjamin Rausseo

Widely known for his character El Conde del Guacharo, this comedian entered the fray with the sole purpose of ridiculing Chavez. It is quite difficult to foresee Rausseo's bid reaching the end of the campaign, however his constant mocking of the caudillo is not only welcomed but needed. Hugo Chavez is nothing but Fidel Castro's lapdog; a gullible small man; demonstrably a coward, or as Venezuelan historian Manuel Caballero likes to call him "El Heroe del Museo Militar" (the hero of the military museum), alluding to the place where Hugo Chavez hid and was captured in 1992, whilst the troops he was meant to be commanding were fighting in the streets of Caracas. Of course no one more gifted to take the piss on Chavez than Rausseo, the country's most famous comedian. Replicating the televised show whereby Chavez sacked PDVSA's executives as if it were a referee sending football players out of the pitch, Rausseo came on TV last week to say "Hugo Chavez: you and your team are dismissed as of today!"

It would be funny if the background had not been the actual president of the country behaving in such immature and irrational fashion. The question then becomes: who is the clown, the one who impersonates or the real person?

Manuel Rosales

As I commented earlier Rosales registered his bid with an impressive show of force. Thousands of people showed up at his rally, something that has unsettled officialdom a great deal. The candidate is taking his bid to the people around Venezuela. This would hardly be replicated by Chavez, for whom Venezuela has become merely a cash cow, busy as he is buying his way into international stardom.

Electoral conditions

As cornered rats, chavistas have shown their teeth and are absolutely incapable of presenting half a coherent strategy when the boss is not around. First is was the Barreto affair and the second 'clever thing' they could come up with was to accuse Manuel Rosales of running "subliminal propaganda" which violates electoral legislation. To their disgrace if there's one thing that chavistas can never again claim is high moral ground, for their abuses are documented thoroughly.

Electoral bosses have already stated that the strongest bone of contention -read the fingerprint-catching devices (FCD)- are to be used in the presidential election no matter what the opposition says. Tibisay Lucena and her team seem to have forgotten the audit that took place 23 November last year, when it was revealed -to the utter astonishment of EU and OAS observers- that the Smartmatic machines keep the sequence of the vote, which combined with the FCD do away with the secrecy of the vote. Alas Lucena is not interested in the slightest in giving assurances to Venezuela's electorate that the institution she heads is trustworthy. To the contrary these announcements and the constant refusal to abide by current legislation illustrate beyond all doubts that the least thing that Chavez and his electoral minions want is to conduct a fair and transparent election. Thus far they are the main promoters of abstention, which by the way will benefit Chavez.

On the other hand disturbing news such as the existence of parallel electoral offices are yet to be addressed by authorities of the National Electoral Council (CNE). Additionaly European officials told me this week that Hugo Chavez is "very lukewarm" with respect to having another European observation mission cum election date, for let us not forget that reports produced by both the EU and OAS electoral observation missions deployed last December in Venezuela were sharply critical of the current administration, concluding that there was widespread distrust towards the CNE. Allegedly only the Carter Center is to be allowed 'to monitor' the elections this time round.

One thing is certain; Chavez & co. will have to work much harder to steal this election. As desperation increases among chavista footsoldiers and putridity rears its ugly head through the cracks of the fortress we may be in for few unpleasant surprises.

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