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4 - 3

By Aleksander Boyd

In the unfolding Venezuelan drama, the last couple of weeks have been like a disputed football game. Agreements, South American meetings, dodgy deals with the US, opposition rallies in chavista-strongholds, gag laws, beauty pageants, absence of government officials from conferences and so on. All in all, the government seems to be totally committed to a self-flagellation strategy masterly dictated from Miraflores. Commencing with the Agreement -reached after seven months of "hard work" by the OAS' secretary Mr Cesar Gaviria-, it represents a victory for the opposition and the first tangible compromise by the government to hold a revoking referendum. Vague, as some of the clauses might seem, it clearly states that the constitution must be observed -hence reinforcing what is already contemplated regarding the celebration of the referendum-. It introduces the international community as a watchful entity to be convoked when the time is ripe for the occasion. It shortens dramatically Chavez' room to manoeuvre and his delaying tactics are somehow restricted. The opposition gets a point in this case.

Regarding the summit in Cuzco, Chavez' performance was nothing short of proverbial. His verbal diarrhoea was the absolute delight of all of his adversaries. It appears that his worst enemy is the spotlight; the man cannot resist temptation. To have such audience is a rare opportunity, therefore he attacked the Free Trade agreement, the formation of an International coalition to tackle the Colombian guerrillas -of which he will not refer as terrorists adding that Venezuelan territory shall not be used as advanced post in the resolution to the conflict-, he went to the extent of expressing that South American countries needed not economic policies or reforms to bridge the gap with the industrialised nations but rather political union. In sum, as I have previously stated Chavez' worst enemy is Chavez. No sweat involved in the second point for the opposition!

Mary O'Grady's article provided the onset for the third point, Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome Mr Jack Kemp, republican who feels at ease in the presence of the most vocal anti American leader of South America. Round of applause for his tenacity or shall we say for his ambition? Purportedly, Mr Kemp wants to get involved in the highly lucrative business of oil trading, representing the interests of Free Market Petroleum. The director of said company gave a brief comment -posted In the Miami Herald- about the nature of the business arguing that they were an established firm having offices in New York and London. A quick search on the English company registry showed different for not only they lack premises in London, the company is not even registered in England. Allegedly, the company is acting as intermediary between PDVSA and the Strategic Oil Reserve department of the US promoting a deal that could be worth 1US billion. Why all of a sudden have Weisbrot, Gott, Ramonet gone silent? Was that gross courting of US officials mentioned in the Bolivarian bash of last April? The opposition scores again.

As for the rally in Catia which left one dead and many injured, all the credit must go to the Tupamaros. This newly formed group made its resounding public debut -after being an underground movement for quite sometime- last Saturday when they opened fire on a peaceful demonstration and were photographed by some of its peers wearing gas masks, bullet proof vests and assault riffles. One must wonder about the provenance of such equipment, perhaps Freddy Bernal can enlighten us.. The event evidenced two interesting points which I will refer to metaphorically; firstly that the opposition, in its desperate attempt to increase their support from the poor sectors, is willing to descend to hell and face the devil regardless of the human cost. Secondly, the devil is no dialogue mood. Who shall get this point? Certainly not the victims.

The gag law, what can be said about the latent possibility of losing the freedom of expression? CONATEL is meant to control the TV programming, its directors appointed by the government. It does not take a heart surgeon to realise that said law is riddled with vices, moreover it is obvious that has been conceived as a suffocating measure in dire times. If approved point to the defender of Bolivar ideals.

Mariangel Ruiz was asked in front of an audience of 600 million people what would she changed in history. It would have been a climax to see her saying "Chavez' arrival to the presidency", however albeit our expectations the response was customary i.e. "I'll help the children". Indeed, in the Venezuelan case not only help will they need miracles too! The game is drew 3 all.

Match point. Meeting in New York city and I will quote from analyst Alexandra Beech "In yet another episode of the surreal Bolivarian Zone, Venezuelan Finance Ministry officials didn't show up for meetings with New York bankers.. Besides Nobrega, Ali Rodriguez Araque was a no-show both at the energy conference in New York, and at some meetings at the Oil Technology Conference in Houston.." The message is clear, investors and bankers alike; Chavez' Venezuela is not a reliable place get acquainted with that fact. Thus, thanks to the government's inability the opposition wins the game. Next Sunday's game might be different.

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