Venezuela's chessboard

Blogger Quico wrote again an interesting post about one of Venezuela's key events of the late XX century, something that is still influencing a lot of people: the Caracazo, a wave of massive riots and looting that shook the whole nation on 27 February 1989, a wave of violence that lead to the killing of many people, mostly by security forces. The Chavista government says there were between 300 and 5000 dead. This is rather curious: we know more about the amount of casualties in the Battle of Marathon over 2400 years ago than about those in the Caracazo, even if the latter event took place in a very central area of Venezuela. There were lots of journalists there and most Venezuelans do have families. Still, people say there were between 300 and 5000 dead. What were the forces at play there? And what really happened?

As Quico said, the measures announced by the government of Pérez were about to be implemented, but they hadn't been put into effect yet. Now, Quico writes:

The whole story-line of 27-F as revolt-against-neoliberalism is ahistorical and silly. Unless you credit the population with preternatural powers of foresight and posit that they were somehow rioting pre-emptively, in protest against what they calculated would be the futureproblems consequences of policies announced but not-yet enacted, you have to agree that the 27-F riots were the result of mass discontent caused by the that CAP's reform package was seeking to solve, not by the solutions CAP had proposed for dealing with them.

I think there was more to it. I already mentioned some of my points in his blog, but here I try to present them more clearly.

1) Venezuela's population had voted for Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1988 thinking he would give them the same kind of prosperity Venezuela had during the oil boom of the seventies, when he was president for the first time.
2) Instead of that, Carlos Andrés Pérez announced austerity measures. The government was brok: oil prices, the A and O of Venezuela, were low, the government had mismanaged resources for decades and people in Venezuela had no idea about what they have to produce to get the items they were getting. Still, the government did not have any idea about how to communicate things and on top of that, the measures still allowed some very rich groups to profit. Take that and the growing misery in Venezuela and it was clear that things could explode rather easily.

Now, the explosion was in my opinion far less spontaneous than many think. Why?

The Extreme Left had been in retreat for many years already, but it kept promoting its ideas. They had fertile ground and some means.


The parties in power from 1958 onwards, AD and COPEI, kept plundering the country and were more often than not carrying out policies that were pernitious for the sustainable development (never mind it is way worse nowadays). Living standards had kept rising until the beginning of the eighties, but things could not keep improving: there were more people for less petrodollars. It did not help that particularly the areas outside the main hubs (Caracas-Maracaibo-Valencia or CMV-hub) education and job opportunities were miserable, more so than in the hubs. It did not help that most Venezuelans still thought and think Venezuela is rich because of its oil, although it cannot produce anything more. It did not help the police forces often used repressive methods to counterattack the leftist movements, methods that had very fatal consequences for others not involved ("collateral damage"). Most Venezuelans did not notice the repression against the extreme left, but a lot of leftists did and they, for the most part, kept their agenda. They would try to infiltrate where they could.

The vast majority of the people who looted in 1989 did not have any lefty ideals. They were moved because of desperation, but also because there was something to loot, because others were doing it (see comments by Moraimaq, a former slum dweller).


The extreme left got support from Cuba and above all the Soviet Unions for many years. Some of the Venezuelan students and teachers who went to the Soviet Union in the seventies and eighties actually got training by the KGB in such things as "propaganda work" and "subvertion". I wrote about this in Spanish here (I translated a document from the KGB that was made public by dissident Bukowsky). In that post you can read about a course given to Lenin José Moreno Faría, nephew of the head of the Pcv back in 1980. Moreno was a university teacher in Venezuela. I am sure there were many more and not just belonging to the Pcv.

By 1988-1989 the Soviet Union was already too busy with itself, but these were quite some people in Venezuela with the training and ideological basis to carry out subvertive activities.


Douglas Bravo (see mindmap below) and others had a plan to infiltrate the military and that is how they got Chávez. The potion goes like this: put some "Bolivarian" pseudo-history with some half-truths (not difficult when so few Venezuelans have any knowledge of history), add some stories about the very real social injustice in Venezuela, US and European interventions, add the desire of many Venezuelans to become a second Bolívar, use some resentment and lack of opportunities for real work and you have a wee revolutionary. That is how they got Henri Falcón as well. Chávez and Falcón may have not passed page 1 of Das Kapital and their ideas are rather fuzzy, but they got "in the mood" and a general ideology.


The extreme left also had a series of networks for infiltrating slums and universities throughout the seventies to nineties. They were not only in CMV, but also in most secondary cities, from Charallave to El Tigre, from Cumaná to Maturín and San Cristobal.

Those networks included:
  • social aid in slums
  • "libraries" (mostly propaganda): this cannot be underestimated in a country where there are so few public libraries and these are mostly in a couple of centres
  • sports
  • ideology courses (reading some Marx, Lenin or just introduction to Marxism, etc
They were working in a very similar fashion as some evangelical fundamentalists do: brainwashing, social support in a community that lacks strong institutionalized social networks, etc.


I was a student at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Although I had little respect for communism, as a student I could see a lot of their activities time after time just by going to the university: if there was a pacific protest, some "eternal students" involved in communist groups would get in and start throwing rocks and Molotovs and burning down lorries and cars. Most normal students would opt to run away, but the damage was done and the cops would start attacking everybody. I probably saw more commies because the only place you could get books in Russian was at a "casa de la amistad", a place of lefty propaganda, and at the Soviet embassy. You did not need to be a commie to get the Russian books and newspapers, but you ended up with at least one or two propaganda leaflets. If you are easy to brainwash, you are done.

In 1988 there was a particularly big march of university teachers and students from all Venezuela in the capital. People were demanding the payment of debts and an increase in salaries. Many thousands of Venezuelans marched peacefully from the Ucv towards the city centre. I was there.

It was a completely peaceful march. In any case, when we were close to the Helicoide, we saw how dozens "encapuchados" (masked guys) came in from the slums. We could not prevent them from joining in. Once we were in the centre, they started to throw Molotovs and stones to all shops and the police attacked ALL OF US.

Helicoide and slums around

As one reader at Quico's post wrote and as was evident from a text I copied there which was written by a communist, the extreme left was concocting something. It may have gone out of hand, but it was more or less what they intended. The Caracazo was not so spontaneous. The extreme left seized the moment. The efforts were not unified and they were not constant, but there were a series of radical Venezuelan groups with very concrete agendas.

The Soviet Union soon collapsed and it probably did not have anything to do with the 1989 events, but its demise did not change many things in Venezuela.

Even if you could read more a lot about communism's collapse in Venezuelan local newspapers , often more than in many well-known US or European newspapers, the vast majority of the poor noticed very little about things outside. Not only were they unable to travel, but their source of information was rather limited. I still remember how I saw a young man getting into a bus in a poor area of Valencia in 1990. He started "preaching" in the same way as someone from some religious group does...but he was preaching about the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was crumbling apart but I was probably the only person in that bus who knew about that. Most were construction workers, cleaners or street vendors who hardly read anything and Venezuelan TV is just bad.

The Chavez propaganda machine often tells the population about how the "opposition" (it is just one big blob to them) gets support from the US State Department, Israel and European right-winged parties. The Chavista propagandists mention real and unreal supports from the Soros Foundation, from the USAID (if you read German, read conservative journalist Scholl-Latour Russland im Zangengriff) and others.

Some of these things are real and some of this very much not, but in any case "the opposition" as a whole has not been more involved into those kinds of things as chavistas themselves.

In any case: what Venezuelans of good will need to do is to become aware of how different groups (left and right, national and foreign) are trying to move Venezuelans of all types as pawns in a chessboard. Venezuelans need to promote open and civilized debates to minimize the effect of hidden agendas. It will be very hard: open debates on facts and programmes are very dangerous for extremists of all kind. Still, debates are one of the things we need to introduce.

As Liliana Ortega, president of human rights organisation Cofavic, said, there is not a single person that has been punished for the events that happened 21 years. Instead, the government keeps using those events to rewrite history. It does not want people to know who moved what pieces of the board.

PS1: Here a little mind map about some key elements of the extreme left. Notice something: again and again the key agents are from where most Venezuelans are, from outside the 3 largest hubs of population, from outside the areas where the opposition leaders still focus

PS2. If you read Russian or you want to use the rather poor but free Google machine translation tool, go to this. I will later translate it decently. It is a detailed account of a Soviet journalist in Venezuela's slums in 1983 describing the social work and brainwashing of communist groups in Venezuela's slums in a fashion very similar to fundamentalist religious groups of any kind in the world.

PS3: Last but not least, my message to chavistas:

Earthquake in Chile

An 8 something (.5? .8?) shook Central Chile.  TVN 24 from Chile tells us it was felt as an 8 in Santiago.  In other words, an order of magnitude more than the one of Haiti in January (though the length data is not clear).  Globovision shows continuous "cadena" with TVN 24 and we can see highways twisted, open ground, displaced roads, etc....  Plus the usual building damage.

And yet we have a clear sense that the government is taking action, that the situation is as much under control as it can be in such circumstances and that people in the street are shocked but not out of their wits.

The difference here is that Chile is a country on its way to development, used to earthquake, which has developed an emergency system geared towards earthquake and tsunami damage.  So even an 8.something quake hits a lot but does not devastate completely the country which is expected to be able to reopen its Concepcion airport in a couple of days......  And to restore electricity and water services in a reasonable amount of time.  I think I heard that the Santiago subway would be reopened any time soon.....  President Bachelet was filmed flying over the disaster area in helicopter, her government busy everywhere, the ambassador to Venezuela emitting what appeared to be complete reports.

In Haiti we saw Preval asking for money at Cancun, and as far as we know, the French and the US are running his country the best they can though already the Haiti government is asking for taxes on the "imported" emergency supplies.....

I do not mean to disparage Haiti which has had a rough history though the case could be made that it started better off at its independence than Chile did.  And Chile did have its share of foreign intervention of which it recovered while Haiti did not.  No, my point is that Venezuela today is way closer to Haiti than it is to Chile.

If an 8 intensity earthquake were to hit Caracas tomorrow our death toll would be in the Haiti range.  Many of them dying of their wounds, epidemic and the like.  Today in Caracas electricity and water supply are no better than Chile post quake.  We have as many holes in the streets as we can see from Chile post quake.  Our public hospitals would be as quickly overtaxed as those of Haiti, leaving the private sector health remains to take care of things as the state structure is woefully inefficient.  And, every week end, crime alone takes int he country almost as many victims that Chile in a single earthquake.

I am not saying that we would be as bad as Haiti, but in some sectors we would as the shanty towns would be going downhill just as those of Port au Prince did.  The general populace of Venezuela is as blissfully ignorant of the earthquake potential of Caracas, just as the one of Haiti who did not remember that Port au Prince and Cap Haitien have already been leveled in historical times.  Caracas had several hundred people killed in the 1967 quake and yet all governments since have done little in preventive measures, including the current glorious bolibanana revolutionary sham which for 11 years has presided over the poor without any significant offering for quake damage control as far as I can tell.  In fact a quake today would be worse than 11 years ago because crime is under such expansion that too many would be more interested in looting than rescuing folks under the crumbled homes.  Looting in Haiti did happen, but after a while, when people got hungry.  In Caracas I bet you that looting would start within the hour...

Venezuela's colours: Cattleya

My mother had lots of them in our garden. Humming birds love them. I am talking about orchids. Blogger Miguel is a specialist and you can see some remarkable pictures of them in his blog.

Here you have a couple of the species that grow naturally in Venezuela. These belong to the Cattleya genus.

Cattleya mossiae

Cattleya lawrenceana

Cattleya lueddemannia

Cattleya maxima

Cattleya percevaliana

I live in a war... (and I say "I love you")

I live in a war. Of course, no one ever uses that word. When it comes to speak about Venezuela, everyone’s agree we are in some sort of “crisis”. “Crisis” sounds abstract to me, like something afar; something that intellectuals use to explain things we more often than not find hard to understand: “a political crisis”, “an economical crisis”, “an institutional crisis”. Whenever I hear this, I imagine “politics” as some teenager having a “crisis”: pushing pillows and screaming, complaining non sense over phone, writing long whims at some Facebook’ wall. No one uses the world “war” and if they do, it’s only a figurative term: “this is like a war”. I doubt there is something in the middle, something between being in a war and not being in one. What is it like to live under a situation “war alike”?
Since this is my blog and I can say whatever I want in the way I want it, in the way I feel it, the way I sense it and the way I live it; I’m going to say that I live in a war. I know this is hard to fall for.

We are used to very strict definitions of war, maybe we owe that to Hollywood and World War II movies. Because of those we like to think of wars as several formal armies fighting against each other, with sophisticated weapons, planes, ships, huge battles, submarines and an overwhelming devastation; a devastation everyone can see, a city destroyed from head to toes, houses down, refugees, death everywhere. The elements we use to commonly identify a war are not useful here. If we go to the shopping malls on weekends and to elegant weddings on Saturday nights, if we call our boyfriends only to speak about how was our day in the office and to dedicate the remaining ten minutes to endless declarations about how much we miss each other during work days, if we take our kids to a birthday party and gather with the family for a barbeque on Sundays, if we have a romantic dinner at a restaurant and go see a movie afterwards… If you live like that, would you call it “war”? My answer is yes.

This is a war. There’s nothing official about it. There are not signed documents, there are not ONU meetings, and there are not concentration camps and no headlines or tweets updating you about the latest events of “the war in Venezuela”. But just because is not official doesn’t mean that is “less” war. Its like seeing your friends; Tatiana and Fernando, hanging out together, sending corny text messages to each other, making out when they think no one is looking, holding hands and attending meetings together… and to believe that since neither of them calls each other boyfriend or girlfriend; there is nothing between them. It is love anyway. Same as war, it doesn’t need to be official to exist, to fulfill your life, to take over your senses.

Just as love doesn’t need to be told out loud to be felt, war doesn’t need to be named for us suffer its effects. Same as love revolves first inside, disturbing your stomach and why not? Your concentration; long before anyone notices it, long before you notice it… This is a war that everyone feels but no one knows it truly exists. This war is happening inside us, inside our moods, our minds, our hearts. It revolves our stomach but not to give us any excitements but to fill us with worries. But we don’t ever say it, not even when we talk about it.

I live in war that doesn’t comes at once, but comes slowly, moving like a gentle shadow and stopping at your door from one day to another without warning, stopping at some friend’s door; and then leaving again.

A friend was briefly kidnapped a couple of nights ago, at 7 Pm, when he was visiting another friend. His family didn’t know if he was okay till 6 am of the next day. I don’t know how the kidnappers let him go, what were the negotiations in between. My friend doesn’t tell the whole story to anyone, not even to the ones who are closer to him. His kidnapping and all the details are now a family secret, fearing possible sequels, possible revenges, you don’t know from what or who. A girl in my office refuses to take the bus. Her parents pick her up at the office everyday or she takes a taxi, even considering that she lives far away from the office, there’s a lot of traffic and cabs are ridicule expensive. But a few months ago she heard a story about an armed gang which entered a bus, ordered the conductor to stop by at some lonely area and then, ordered all male passengers to get off the bus; leaving only the women there. Then, the gang systematically raped all the women inside the bus. I don’t know if this story is true and neither does the girl in my office. But since this supposedly happened in her route, she decided to never take a bus again.

I don’t go to certain places, I don’t carry a lot of cash, and I have neither expensive cell phones nor expensive clothes. I try to look as much “low profile” as I can; which is just non sense; If you consider my low salary. I’m careful not to speak out many opinions in certain places. Every time I write this blog I’m a bit scared. I fear of possible unknown consequences. A possible Internet censorship it’s the least of my fears. Prison is the highest. So I always write every word carefully, trying to control every thought that wants to come out but it wouldn’t be appropriate, try to speak and not speak at the same time, to not provide details, to change those that are necessary, to miss clues, to use words that would possible classify me as a “traitor”. You watch your mouth and open and close your door quickly, you not leave stuff in your car, you don’t safe stuff in your bag’ pockets and gently put your arm above the clap to secure your belongings. You are already used to look to all sides when you cross a street: both sides of the cars coming, both sides of the sidewalk in case a motorcycle its also coming; and then to your left, your right and your back in case someone suspicious is following you. You perform all those rituals unconsciously in a couple of seconds. It’s only when you detect a weird look, a strange movement and walk quickly and refugee in a shop; when you notice that you are doing that every single time, every single day. It’s on that moment when you realize that this war has been here for some time, I’m not sure for how long.

I live in a war that goes inside; in a war feed with uncertainty. I live in a dark war. In a war that lacks of information except for the stories passing from mouth to mouth and from Tweet to Tweet. I live in a war where I don’t know who the “good ones” and the “bad ones” are; I don’t know whose the armies belong to, I’m unaware of their power, of their tactics; I’m far from delude their intentions. I just suspect that this lack of information is convenient for at least one side, or maybe for everyone involved. I suspect this is a war of everybody against everybody, against all things that are worth for no reason, against me and what I represent. But I’m not the victim of this war. I do not exist in this war. I’m not involved. I’m just living it, living inside it without playing any significant role in the game. I’m just here, standing and breathing its suffocating air, smelling its remaining, overwhelmed by all tangible and non tangible destruction that leaves behind.

This war smells like loneliness, like anxiety; it gives me the same sensation of that when one enters a room that is messy, disorganized, filled with papers, 40 year old files and books with woodworms. A room that is old but it looks more forgotten than old. The fact that it was left like that it’s the important part, not how much time it has passed. This war smells like that dust that spreads when you try to clean up the mess, that enters your nose and your eyes until you can’t take it, until you start sneezing and you know that the only thing that will stop your allergies would be getting out of there. I’m allergic to dust. I’m allergic to war too. The dust’ allergy runs inside your nose while the war’ one enters your chest. It’s emotional; it oppresses you and it can control you if you let it; if you think for too long about that story you just heard, if you feel too much sorry for the leading roles of such story, if you become aware that they are like you and you could have their exact same luck. We like in the war of the “what if”, which petrifies our senses. What if I’m next? What if this is what will happen next? This possibility which might not be real but feels like it petrifies your senses.

Sometimes it make us lay down in bed thinking that if only we could stay there all the time – and our love ones too – then maybe, nothing would happens to us. Perhaps that would be another way out: to lock down in our shelters and close our eyes until it’s over. The sleeping beauty tale makes now more sense to me. But something always wakes me up. Even at home, we hear gunshots out there sometimes. We don’t know if they were really gun shots or fireworks or if the fireworks we are hearing were used to hide the sound of the gunshots. We don’t know if someone has get hurt or has been killed and where, and how, and because of what. We hear sirens. We secure our doors. We make sure our must precious belongings are not visible from the street.

This is a war that has discovered that fear is the most powerful weapon of all. Forget about guns, AK 47, tanks, airplanes, ships, antrax, bombs, grenades… The fear it’s the only weapon that can be used over and over again without leaving any visible print, without facing any legal responsibility. The fear can be created with relatively low effort gaining outstanding results. The fear can withdraw a whole population, keeping them in line; in their line, to their rules. The fear is simply effective. Fast, cheap, clean, even innocent, but overall; effective. The fear is contagious and has the ability to expand. If one fears the spiders it also fears dark corners where spiders might hide, fears the slight touch on the back from a annoying friend; or the breeze or the palm tree… since it reminds the walk of a spider.

We fear about us, about all of us. And is that extensive fear what makes us look at our love ones in an entire new way. We easily became over protective. My boyfriend knows that he must call me as soon as he gets home after he drops me at my building. If he takes more than ten minutes to make that call, I start worrying. One day his cell was running off battery and he didn’t not call me till it was half an hour later than usual. I was near crying. My mom usually picks me up at work if I have to work extra hours because I can’t afford to come home when the night has fallen. My boyfriend asks me over and over again to take care of myself.

I live in a war. I have no doubt about it. I don’t need anyone to declare it. The reality is so overwhelming that I would consider an offence to see someone calling the press and openly admitting it. But I also live my life. Life does not paralyse abruptly when this kind of war erupts. It keeps moving. The sun keeps shinning. The office expects you at 8 am. Your family expects you at 6 or 7 Pm. You spend the weekend wondering around malls, you are looking for a dress to attend to a wedding of a very close friend in a few weeks.

Your boyfriend calls you at 10 am laughing and saying “I love you”.

You don’t say that you fear for him, that you fear for yourself, that food is scarce and money even more, that whatever you used to call freedom its now seriously injured. Is not that you don’t want to hurt him or worry him more, is just that you are who you are: a dreamer. A dreamer who’s certain that same as war can conquer all; love might have the same prerogative. It’s a cliché, I know it. Sounds like the typical phrase one would expect to hear in a beauty pageant. But the cliché stops being so when you really understand it, when you feel like you really need it.

You smile. You just say “I love you" back to him.

You keep moving. And keep living your life; in a war.

Where democracy resides

It is not in Venezuela, it is in Colombia.

I just watched on TV the reading of the Colombian High Court ruling saying that the law to call for a referendum that would allow for a third election for Uribe is not valid because it did not follow the rules for its elaboration.  It is not a judgement on whether Uribe deserves reelection, just an observation that no matter what, a president is not above the law and he must follow the rules.  Now as I am typing this there is the Uribe reply, also on Globovision, which is a concession speech of sort, with his call to follow the rule of law and that he would work for Colombia no matter where he is.

Can you imagine this in Venezuela?  A court ruling against Chavez personal ambition?  Him accepting the ruling? Chavez might win boatloads of elections but democracy is not based on elections only as this historical moment for Colombia reminds us.  Democracy is only valid when the rights of the minority are preserved in their essential, not when the majority does as it pleases, roughing the other side with impunity.  Make no mistake: all polls in Colombia put Uribe ahead had he been allowed to run again, which makes this moment even more transcendent as Chavez now behind in the polls is desperately trying to establish a state where democracy would be lost permanently.

This creates a difficult situation for Colombia as the succession of a president as effective, as purposeful, as successful, is going to create an emotional void of sorts that cannot be filled easily.  But Colombia is a nation on the rise, with great institutions as we just could witness a few minutes ago.  It brings us in awe, from Venezuela, that the country with the biggest and strongest army of Latin America, with the most successful and steel willed president, with a booming economy in spite of a larval civil war, world crisis and the sabotage of Venezuela is able to send Uribe away just like that.  And Uribe accepts it rather graciously, though slightly choked.

Colombia does have the people to succeed Uribe: the candidates roster seems from here much better than what we could ourselves propose to replace Chavez.  The US will have one more  less excuse to postpone the FTA that Uribe can dedicate the rest of his term to get, as the great democrat of Latin America.  And, as this blog is already on record for, the best way for Uribe to have a shinny place in Colombia's history, to have avenues everywhere named for him because the people do want them carry Uribe's name, if for him to leave office now.  I would have preferred him to leave on his good will rather than been dismissed by the court, but if this is a blot on Uribe it is a gold star for Colombia's road to full modern democracy.

Kot, Menschenwürde und Lateinamerika

Der seit 1999 amtierende Präsident Venezuelas hat gestern wieder das getan, was er am liebsten tut: er hat Menschen beleidigt, um sich selbst zu schützen. Der ehemalige Kommandant und Putschist von 1992 sagte, der Bericht der Interamerikanischen Kommission für Menschenrechte sei "Kot, lauter Kot" und alle Beamten der Kommission seien "Mafiosi". Die skatologische Fixierung des sich selbst bezeichnenden "Führers der Revolution" und Volk schlechthin ist nicht neu: die Ergebnisse des Referendums von 2007, die nicht nur durch ein Referendum von 2009, sondern vor allem durch eine Reihe "Sondergesetze" völlig ignoriert wurden, seien ein Scheiß- Scheiß, Scheiß-Sieg der Opposition gewesen. Davor und danach gab es viele Äusserungen in diesem Stil.

Währenddessen erklärte die "Bürgerbeauftragte Venezuelas", Gabriela Ramírez, der Bericht sei nicht unparteiisch. Sie sagte, es gäbe "eine Anzahl von Zitaten der Opposition im Bericht" und die Kommission verallgemeinere "vereinzelte Fälle, um zum Schluss zu kommen, dass der venezolanische Staat Menschenrechte verletzen würde."

Diese Frau soll die Bürgerbeauftragte in Venezuela sein

Frau Ramírez behauptet also, dass die Kommission nicht unparteiisch ist. Dies kommt aus dem Mund eines aktiven Mitglieds der UVE, einer Partei, die, vielmehr als Schwester-, eine Klonparteie der MVR und nun Teil der PSUV ist. Diese Frau wurde von der Asamblea Nacional - eine fast völlig regierungstreue Organisation trotz zahlreicher Protesten als "Verteidigerin des Volkes" ernannt. Bis jetzt hat sie immer wieder den Eindruck erweckt, keine Bürger- sondern eifrige Regierungsbeauftragte zu sein.

Der Journalist von The Guardian in Venezuela, Rory Carroll, hatte Schwierigkeiten diese Aussagen des Präsidenten als Nachrichten zu thematisieren. Wie Francisco Toro in seinem englischsprachigen Blog Caracas Chronicles berichtet, handelt es sich erneut um "non news". Herr Toro trifft den Kern der Sache: das Traurigste ist, wie der venezolanische Präsident sich weigert, ein offenes Debat zu akzeptieren, überhaupt zu erklären, ob er die sehr konkrete Aussagen zu Menschenrechten und Recht in Venezuela dementiert. Er weigert sich, zu sagen, ob er falsch bzw gerechtfertigt findet, dass 137 Richter ohne jegliche Erklärung seit 2007 abgesetzt oder bestrafft würden, weil sie Leute in Freiheit gelassen haben, die an politischen Protesten beteiligt waren. Dies ist für mich nicht verwunderlich: der Kommandant ist durch das ganze System in Venezuela geschützt: als venezolanischer Präsident muss er keine Antwort geben, er kann sich in seinen ewigen Monologen schützen. Es ist ein präsidentiales System der schlechtesten Art. Die caudillo-Mentalität war zwar immer da, sie hat aber ein neues Ausmaß genommen, seitdem die Militärs an der Macht sind.

Wir können nicht viel von solchen Líderes wie Lula da Silva, Prima Dona der lateinamerikanischen Politik, erwarten. Kurz nachdem der Bürgerrechtler Orlanda Zapata in Kuba in Haft starb, erklärte der Brasilianer zwar kurz sein Bedauern, er ließ sich aber weiter ganz gemütlich von der Castro-Familie hofieren. Das heisst für ihn "Lateinamerikaner sein": solange es unter Latinos bleibt, ist alles chévere.

Mehr über Herrn Zapata hier

Cancun secrets

 No, this is not going to be about the spat between Uribe and Chavez, where Chavez was exposed and humiliated once again but where Uribe did not look too good either.  The surprise here was not Chavez trying to grab headlines, that is about the only thing he can do these days, for which he is willing to do anything, as silly as it might be.  No, the surprise was that a normally cool Uribe lost it.  Or did he?

The Cancun "summit" early this week was supposed to bring together Central America, the Caribbean and South America sans US of A and Canada.  The mystery here is why so many heads of state allowed themselves to be manipulated as such, including surprisingly Felipe Calderon of Mexico who should know better.  Or does he indeed?

One of the proposals floating around, from Chavez, or the Castros (does it matter?)  was to create an OAS without North America for which Chavez proposed Lula, about to be jobless in less than a year, to chair over.  And yet Lula did not try to grab headlines and surprisingly it was Raul Castro who came out as the peacemaker holding Uribe and Chavez apart from a fist fight.  Or was that his nature been revealed to all?

I am not too sure what really goes on, but among so many pundits why not indulge myself.

First, Uribe outburst.  I think it was sort of planned.  Why?  Because it seems that Uribe is not going to be able to run for reelection after all.  So, as the statesman he is he decided to sacrifice himself in part, to have it out with Chavez and either mend relations for his successor, or leave it near war.  War of course is not nice and it is not what Uribe wants since the FARC is at war already with him.  And a war with Venezuela is not necessary as the country is imploding on its own; but its implosion will create displaced masses at the borders and political trouble there.  Quite a lot like the consequences of war, you know...  What I mean here is that Uribe wants his successor to reach the Casa de Nariño with the Colombian public opinion having a clear outlook at what the permanence of Chavez means for them. 

Let's not forget one thing, if Uribe and Chavez look a lot alike in their political ambition and authoritarian outlook of rule, Uribe is also a statesman and he works ALSO for Colombia whereas Chavez ONLY WORKS for himself.  Big, big difference there!

Let's go on now to the real reason of the summit.  It is another episode of the war for control of the Americas between Brazil and the USA.

Why?, you may ask since the US was not present.

True, it was not there but Mexico was and that is what explains the role of Calderon, who in spite of his NAFTA treaty with he US pretended to agree, as if nothing, to create a non-OAS OAS like structure minus, Canada and the US.  Calderon simply let Brazil know that if it wanted such a structure so as to increase its hemispheric influence it would find Mexico across the table fighting it back, or at least for its own area of influence.  Look at the votes: Mexico is next door to many small countries whereas Brazil is, well, far away.  A little independent Caribbean island can easily be bought by Mexico as it knows full well that there more tropical tourism to expect from the US than from Brazil.  We call that a Trojan horse too, Mexico that is, for the US, if needed.

That is why the US was just fine about the Cancun summit, not offended at all by the apparent snub, letting Brazil start a premature exhaustion and, let's not be afraid of full speculation, serving Brazil notice that if it wants to exclude the US it would also have to foot the bill for the potential failed states that border it.  I mean Venezuela and Bolivia.  Want them?  Have them!

Which bring us to the last item, the relative discretion of Lula and the figuring of Castro.

First there is the amazingly disconcerting wish for too many in Latin America to want to figure with the Castro brothers, something that is not possible at the OAS.  Why there is such an overlook of the crimes committed in Cuba is a mystery that cannot be explained alone by the past silly leftism of people like Lula or Bachelet.  While the meeting took place yet another tortured hunger strike political prisoner died in Cuba.  As if nothing Lula and Chavez traveled to Havana after Cancun.  Only Europe and the US have complained, the rest of Latin America so far keeps silent!  The shame!

And there is the reason why Lula was discreet and Raul Castro the peace maker.  The OAS is now a very nasty restrain to many countries which are embarking into serial human rights violations.  In particular Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia (though other countries could soon find themselves into the shooting field, namely Colombia, Honduras, Paraguay and Mexico).  Many really are sorry they signed the Interamerican chart of the OAS for the protection of Human Rights a few years ago.  Not only they are getting afraid that it could be applied to them, but other countries like Brazil are afraid that they will have to vote on its application as this could kill its business in these countries where rights are violated.  In other words since we are a continent of cowards, victims and victimizers, so to speak, would like to get out of the OAS obligations (that they are already failing, look at Colombia supporting Insulza reelection!).  What best but to leave the OAS for another organization without such restraints?  And which holds its meetings in nice places like Cancun allowing heads of states to take a vacation and slap each other's backs.

Heck!  Even Chavez was already promoting Lula for that new organization as the best candidate to preside it.  I bet he is!  But that was a tad too early for Lula, with Mexico so clearly and energetically stepping in, a rather disconcerting surprise for the imperial Brazilian foreign service.

So Lula stayed quiet, letting Raul Castro shine.  Astounding!

Which makes Lula the biggest loser as his foreign policy since the Honduras crisis has been accumulating mistakes, missteps and empty results.  He did not do much there, tried to be discreet, but when you look at it he was the one with the highest expectations, did not fulfill them and went on to Cuba to support murder!  He is in great danger to mess up his record a few months before leaving office, and carry down with him his appointed successor, Dilma Roussef, which from all I can read about her is not a very promising ruler at all!

The biggest winner here?  Believe it or not Canada and the US!  After the disastrous Bush years for the US relations, and its image, with Latin America (I know, I know, many reasons but the result is there and Obama has to deal with it) the US was in a nearly impossible situation.  And yet, with Honduras conclusion, and now this absentee good point, I must say that so far Obama's team policy toward Latin America is overall doing much better than I was expecting at first!

Challenging caudillos, changing Venezuela

Chávez hasn't got the courage to do what this lady is doing: debate

One of the main reasons why Venezuela has the disastrous politicians it has is the absolute lack of any mechanism for normal, civilized debate. It has always been a strong presidential system where the president does not have to answer to any specifics, just theoretically give some "report", report that always becomes a monologue.

We must challenge Hugo Chávez but also any other polician aspiring to play a major role in Venezuela to debate in real time, in front of the cameras, in front of challengers, not followers.

My Scandinavian, German or US American friends who don't know much about Venezuela will say: well, why don't you do it? They will silently think: "why do these guys ponder on such an obvious thing? Geez!".

Venezuelans and Scandinavians, Germans or US Americans who know Venezuela well realise that that is not so evident in the Land of Grace. There is no tradition. We went from being one of Spain's forgotten provinces to being a land of caudillos. Most Venezuelans know about the US primaries and the US presidential debates, but then those are one-time things. There is no parliamentary system around and frankly speaking, Spain's is not the best model. Venezuelans also know very little about the debates that do take place in places like Chile.

Most Venezuelans, although they would like real debates, don't demand them. Why? Because they think they would never happen.

This is a shame and needs to change. Rosales, who is not my take for a politician, demanded a debate with Chávez in the 2006 presidential elections. Chávez said he would not debate with someone who speaks worse than a 6-year old pupil.

Rosales may speak worse than a pupil, but Chávez should have been forced to debate with the candidate of the opposition, whether that person was a Rosales or a Pericles. The thing is Chávez has never had to debate with anyone after he became elected president in December 1998. He never ever debated, actually. Before he became president he went through a couple of interviews, but they were not that hard as he was just a candidate promising Heaven. He later had a couple of silly interviews as president where some journalists afraid to be "difficult", people like BBC journalist Lustig, asked such questions as "do you hate US Americans?". I would love to see Hugo being interviewed by German Marietta Slomka from the ZDF (you can watch her below grilling in German one of many politicians, she does so "gnadenlos", with no mercy):

Vargas Llosa once challenged Chávez to a debate, but Chávez was afraid and recanted after declaring he would accept. The Venezuelan coupster lost face in spite of all his excuses. He said Vargas Llosa was "not of his league", as if a president were something special, a kind of New royalty. It is not surprising, "revolutionaries" never engage in open debates once they get to power as they are as reactionary as the King of France.

Only old-guard Antonio Ledezma, very timidly, said on the aftermath of the Vargas event that he also wanted to challenge Chávez...and he did not have the discipline to insist. He did it so only after Vargas did, and he gave up right away. Are we, Venezuelans, so lacking in persistence to bring things through as Karl Marx said?

"Like most of his countrymen, he was averse to any prolonged exertion"

So far, the most persistent person to challenge a Venezuelan politician to debate has been Vargas, a Peruvian.

The only times Chávez had to answer "normal", not particularly difficult questions, were during two Alo Presidente shows: firstly with a young journalist from Brazil, who had not been "filtered through" and then when Rory Carroll, from The Guardian, also got a chance to ask a normal question. Chávez flipped out on both occassions. There also was an unrequested question from a journalist of Fox News, but the Venezuelan autocrat did not even bother to hide his refusal because it was "Fox News".

Chávez is a military. He is not used to debate. Actually, few other politicians in Venezuela, even if they are not military, can do anything in real debates. Why? Because they are used to the caudillo mentality. Even if they are not military, they think like one. We have seen that when some oppo leaders have been asked hard questions by US or European media outlets. We need to change that. Uribe told Chávez to "be a man and talk openly". I would not use Uribe's prejudiced tone. I would say "be courageous and debate openly" like the lady on the first picture at the German Bundestag.

In Venezuela as far as I remember we had only one TV programme where politicians were grilled, "La silla caliente", with journalist Oscar Yanez. It was journalist against politician. We have never had a real debate between a head of state and other politicians. At most we have had some monologues between parliamentarians at the National Assembly, if chavistas allow the others to take the floor.

We, Venezuelans, have to challenge politicians to debate openly. We have to demand from them to have the courage to answer in real time and not hide behind a programme like Aló Presidente or Plataforma de la Unión. Only if we persist until they do it will they start evolving into something beyond and above the XIX century Venezuela.

And here you get Sarkozy getting grilled on France 3.


The bush dog or in Venezuela perro de agua (water dog) is a strange little fellow. It lives from Central America all the way to Southern South America...but it is rare everywhere. I have heard people talking about it but I have never seen one myself. I read one was spotted in the San Esteban National Park, a national park in Northern Carabobo I know well as I used to roam around a lot there. I hope bush dogs can survive in that area. The San Esteban National Park is a wonderful place, but it is heavily under pressure from expanding urban settlements, people's ignorance towards the environment and lack of government control. Carabobo is one of the most densely populated regions of Venezuela and people keep settling in there.

To let you understand the importance of these animals: they are very rare, they are threatened and they are not a variation of the Old World dogs but the only living species of the genus Speothos. That is a genus of the caninae subfamily, which is part of the Canidae family . Wolves, foxes and jackals are closer to our normal dogs in the evolutionary tree than the bush dog.

A bush dog in prison

Chavismo inner trouble might be major than expected: rats abandoning ships or democracy revival?

The day surprised me with the announcement that Henri Falcon, Lara State governor, decided to abandon Chavez party, the PSUV.  But he did not go to the opposition, he requested to enter to the PPT, a Chavez/PSUV junior coalition member, giving them a rather poisoned gift.  Timeo danaos et dona ferentes...

The news even marked the English Press with a Business Week report!

Henri Falcon, as the thoughtful executive
Henri Falcon is one of the very few chavista left that was worth anything, as this blog has been repeating occasionally since at least 2006 when I wrote "...the more dynamic mayor of Barquisimeto, Henri Falcon, the only chavista I could see myself voting for".  Twice elected mayor of Barquisimeto, without any trouble, and elected governor of Lara in 2008 with a higher percentage than Chavez in 2006 (73,52 to 66,47) courtesy of a large opposition sector voting for him.

It is not that Falcon is particularly bright, but he is dedicated to his job, has enough civil service sense, and cultivates pragmatism understanding that governing a community can be done only with the community and not against it, at least as far as basic values are concerned.  In other words, for him change comes through example and results, not because he said so, a rare quality in a military who can also on occasion have is outbursts.  Fortunately for him, in spite of being lodged within chavismo, of being surrounded by authoritarians only too willing to sabotage his actions, and of being a military himself, pragmatism dominates in the end (or so far should I say?).

Redder days, already sticking out
His troubles are not new.  Already in mid 2008 chavismo though Reyes Reyes, the failed governor of Lara who wanted to impose his son as successor, Falcon was about to be denied the chance to run for governor even though all polls made him a shoo in.  He was briefly exclude of the PSUV, for not even 48 hours if memory serves me well.  He came back as the PSUV candidate leaving Reyes Reyes son to run for the state assembly of which supposedly he was to be the Chair.  Though 2009 he was constantly questioned, even directly by Chavez even though he worked diligently to make sure Lara would vote SI on the February referendum.  But for Chavez only unconditional submission is accepted ad Falcon never forgot that if Chavez was president of Venezuela, Larenses did not elect him to be his step stool.

Since his 2008 election Falcon has been constantly sabotaged, to the point that even the successor he chose and helped to win the Barquisimeto town hall turned against him.  From the second half of 2009 it had become clear that his exit or expulsion from chavismo was a matter of time.  Personally I thought it could happen when the PSUV decided on its Lara candidates for September as Falcon would demand to have a least a majority of the nominees, or a general primary.  Or later as some compromise would be reached.  But certainly before 2012 a chavismo would not allow him to run for reelection.  The exit happened yesterday through a paid press release, a personal letter of Falcon to Chavez.

I suspect that two events accelerated the process.  First the CNE gerrymandered the Lara districts, the only chavista held state to suffer such manipulation.  The reason was either to weaken the Falcon wing in case of primaries as his area of influence were put with the one of the opposition, forcing him in an opposition alliance or submit him once and for all.  The last straw was probably the off the ass decision of Chavez to expropriate two Polar warehouses in the industrial section of Barquisimeto to make subsidized housing.  This was too much because Barquisimeto is one of the very few cities of Venezuela who actually has some kind of urban planning and Falcon was not going to accept that Chaevz wrecked it just because of his personal vendetta with Polar.  The more so that Barquisimeto is surrounded by plenty of land for population growth, with the possibility of making rather cheap mass transit lines if chavismo had enough vision beyond Chavez international glory.

What does it all means in the end, besides the obvious that can be read in Falcon letter, such as a vertical Leninist PSUV, a lack of dialogue, the view that nay governor or mayor in Venezuela is there to serve Chavez without any consideration for the local reality?  It is important to note that Falcon embraces the left fully in his letter and seeks to join the PPT, a Chavez coalition member, thus indicating clearly that he has nothing to do formally with the opposition except fr local agreement points in Lara administration.  Thus Falcon is indeed the first real pro Chavez politician to bail out.  Previous bail outs, from Baduel to Miquilena ,were form people who had a life before Chavez and eventually broke with him.  Before Chavez Falcon was a non-entity and all he did and got was working for Chavez, within chavismo.  That is the real importance of Falcon departure and probably a sign of things to come, a true reflection of what is going inside chavismo where the pro-Cuba authoritarian rule of Chavez is less and less accepted (as we could sense from some cabinet resignation early this year).

In short, what we see with Falcon resignation is that a very significant section of chavismo willing to accept for a while undemocratic measures for the sake of speeding up social changes are realizing that they have accepted enough and that it is time to develop real institutions, not based on a single man.  The consequences will be momentous although at this point we can foresee neither the road, nor the timetable.  That is, will this speed up chavismo decomposition or will this speed up Chavez radicalization and final kick to democracy pretense?

Right now we can only speculate reasonably on some immediate consequences.

The PPT is in a quandary as we can even suspect that they are not ready for Falcon proposal.  It is quite possible that Falcon petition to enter the PPT was an in pectore proposal to make sure he would not be seen as leaving he "revolution".  This is a poisoned gift for the PPT because accepting Falcon can open wide the door of Lara state after they were expelled from Guarico.  But also it could force the PPT to leave Chavez coalition and be mauled into nothingness next election (anyone elected in Falcon's lists, PPT or opposition, will owe his/her seat to Falcon more than anything else).  Let's not forget that the PPT is originally a cession of once powerful Causa R and that its major historical leaders have long left it (Medina and Isturiz), making the PPT more of a remora like to Chavez shark.

Electorally this is a problem for the PSUV as Lara is now a competitive sate where three tendencies will fight it out with equal chances: the PSUV, Falcon followers and the opposition.  Will  the opposition accept a deal with Falcon to carry the whole state?  That will depend on what the PPT will do.  But Lara is not the only state where a Falcon dissident campaign can have effect.  In Yaracuy currently the opposition has a weak chance at 1 out of the 5 seats.  But with Falcon campaigning, in particular in the Yaritagua area close to Barquisimeto, Yaracuy could have now at lest two seats leaning opposition!  A similar effect could be seen in the Acarigua seat of Portuguesa and maybe influence in Trujillo State outcome.  All in all, a dozen seats are under the "Falcon effect".  This is enough to rob either chavismo or the opposition from an outright victory making the Falcon group a king maker of sorts, the best thing that could happen for chavismo if this one were inhabited by rational spirits. 

And that is about all we can say now.  Betting for a Falcon candidacy in 2012, a chavismo without Chavez is way premature, if not even ridiculous as Falcon is big around here but useless in Oriente and Guyana, and not much in between Valencia and Caracas.  As such Falcon is neither the secret weapon for the opposition, nor the latest frijolito avatar. True, he will benefit of a larger national exposure now, but so did Baduel, and Miquilena and many others.  Falcon is certainly stronger than them for being the lone chavista politician to have developed his own political base but even this one depends heavily on his ability to attract opposition fringes.  Then again his timing to leave the PSUV ship might be perfect as he probably knows better than many what is really going on inside.  This is just the start.

The radicalization of Chavez: a break or break?

It must be difficult to be Chavez today.  11 years of promises, of people buying, of exhausting B.S. and still you do not have the country on your side and your poll numbers are below 50% because some malcontents grumble about the lack of water, lack of light, lack of security, lack of food items at the store, high prices, lack of personal security....  From the comforts of Miraflores Palace where Chavez has grown fat and lazy and egomaniac, it is difficult to understand the growing restlessness, the unwillingness of too many to give him that blank check he so wishes for, to bring us to a Cuba like "mar de la felicidad", sea of happiness.  And yet, the dense fog of hubris does not stop reality to seep inside the mind of Chavez, and he sees that he cannot rely on anyone as even some of his alleged close followers are rumored to be reluctant to become mere Cuban colonial employees and prefer to resign.

Thus Chavez has launched himself into the only thing he knows how to do: divide the country, scare people, blackmail them, impose his word if not his will.  In short he is running again, in the campaign of his life because he knows that his entourage is only able to hire buses to ferry red shirts, if that much.  And because if he loses this one he will be out, from the hand of his own people.

Two recent events illustrate quite well this anxious Chavez.  A Friday before last he convoked a march of students to try to counter the very successful real student protest against his repression and terrible management of the country.  I was at my Chiropodist the following Saturday, dealing with an ingrown toe nail and reading Panorama waiting for my turn.  The shop owners are clever, they buy Panorama and El Universal for the customers waiting room.  Panorama, once the respected newspaper of Maracaibo, one of the only three papers able to give a run for their money to the Caracas ones, has become so pro-Chavez that it is embarrassing.  Witness this picture illustrating a quarter of the front page, of a Chavez brandishing with a black glove the Bolivar sword calling "his" students to arms.

The caption says it all, only the students attending "bolivarian universities" are the true students. dismissing the "manitas blancas", little white hands, as fascists and what not.  Hence the threatening, simplistic black glove?

Except that his student rally saw too many buses as usual (opposition student marches never need buses to fill their ranks), and as Globovision lovingly retransmitted, most of these chavista students looked suspiciously like public employees requested to march.  But that is really not the offensive part, not even the silly vest calling for the fashion police: the problem here is a clear image of Chavez calling for violence, as if the opposition could overthrown him just as he controls EVERYTHING in the country, including, he never tires of reminding us, the gun power.  Is he really trying to let us know that his patience has run out and unless we submit to his will it is going to be "off with their heads!"?

Chavez and his well armed Zamora militia
Today there was another such sorry spectacle which also combined history rewriting.  The old square of El Calvario, built in the XIX century and the first public park built in Venezuela under Guzman Blanco, has been renamed for Zamora, a caudillo of the Federal Civil Wars who did not live long enough to have made himself execrated like most of the other caudillos of that time.  Conveniently forgetting that Zamora even had slaves at some point in his life, and that he used populist promises of land redistribution to recruit armies for his own ambitions once Caracas denied them, Chavez paints him as second only to Bolivar. As if Zamora had ever shown any significant intellectual abilities to construct a political inheritance of any type.  But history of Venezuela is now what Chavez decides so off went the Columbus statue of the park, and the name and tradition (even though El Calvario has long ceased to be a park where you could hang out, invaded by thugs, junkies and what not).

Thus Chavez went today to what is now becoming his weekly mass rally.  From El Universal, the  picture on the left says it all.  The show was set to make Chavez look as the agricultural leader of the masses (the straw hats) while displaying his power with the well armed militia at his feet.  Never mind that his agricultural policies in 11 years have transformed Venezuela in a country that needs to import more than 50% of its food, a percentage that keeps increasing.  Facts have long ceased to matter in what has become a purely emotional joust.

Chavez arriving at El Calvario today, with Jesus and Gauleiter

There was yet another telling picture of Chavez arriving at the Zamora square to be.  He arrived in a tractor, I suppose honoring the agricultural prowess of Zamora.  One is astounded by the levels of sycophancy.  First, the painting behind, where Chavez is larger than Bolivar, and as tall as Jesus though a little bit below.  And then the security guard holding tight to the truck.  Why?  To make sure Chavez would not roll on their boots?  And look at those clinging dearly for life around Chavez!  Eager to be seen in the shot even if they risk their neck!  The one behind Chavez with glasses is the new Vice President, a fanatic without charisma or following who badly needs to rub it out from Chavez.  Or the Gauleiter of Caracas, the woman appointed by violating the constitution, an individual who has proven her incompetence in the less than one year she has been in charge, who has been publicly scolded by Chavez and who cannot contain her joy at being front line for the tail winds of Chavez.

Don't these people have better things to do on a Saturday when there are so many fires to put down everywhere?

The radicalization of Chavez this time around is exacerbated because it is becoming clear to most people that he has been a bad manager, that his orders are not followed, that his promises are not materializing and that whatever little bit some thing he has achieved is crumbling down fast, including any pretense of an ideology he tried to build up.  So he needs to show authority, to pretend that he is in charge, be it expropriating a supermarket, be it demanding public servants to bow to him, be it insulting people, be it threatening them directly with weaponry. In other words he is resorting to his last resource: be the only bully around.

I am not the only one thinking like this. As I was researching for these words I run into an interview of Luis Vicente Leon who in general irks me a lot by his tendency to believe that pollsters should rule the world. but for once I agreed with him. Chavez is indeed in need to show that he is the strongest, if anything by doing the craziest things just because he can get away with it. One of the subliminal messages he sends, I would add, is that "if you cannot beat me, then join me, or shut up!". Luis Vicente for once in a show of modesty says that he cannot tell whether this will succeed because the campaign is not anymore between Chavez and the opposition, but Chavez and the lack of electricity and so on.

Whatever it is, it is quite a gamble. If with his amazingly aggressive start of the year Chavez does not manage to raise his numbers he might finally fall into the death spiral of politics, the one from which politicians never recover. But then he might not as the devaluation is going to bring a sensation or prosperity in lower classes as Chavez will simply spread depreciated currency. How long will it take for the people to realize that the cash is worth much less than before? A month? A quarter? by September? Leon seems to be betting that Chavez could have time to buy his way out, but he is not sure, not because Chavez cannot do it but because it might be too late. I personally think it is too early for Chavez to do what he does because there is still 6 months ahead and the more he spends the more he risks to bring the economy down by denying resources where they are really needed right now.

But then again Chavez is a reactive personality and he cannot stay quiet as the electricity crisis is taking a stupendous toll on him, enervating him enough that he promised us that by June all will be solved. Does he not recall that he told us that Venezuela was ironclad against the world crisis just to devaluate the currency one year later by 100%? Imagine a major black out in June...... Or the Guri running dry anyway......

The time bomb and the minefields in Venezuela

Venezuela can get to the level of low-flame civil war or enter into a period of very open repression in six months to one year at most.

I don't think I say this lightly. Here you can listen Chávez stating that they will rule for 900 years. The government does not understand such a thing as "pluralism" or "open debate". As you can read from governmental sources, they do not even consider there could be something like a power change. They may say "it is because the opposition is no opposition, it does not live up to the challenge". Everybody knows it is not just that. Chávez and his high-ranking supporters would simply never accept losing power. They are either

  • too involved in crimes of all types AND/OR
  • too imbued in an absolutist ideology that does not accept anything but total contro, power alternation is not an option for them, who claim to be "the People"
As the economy deteriorates and the disatisfaction grows, the government can only threaten, increase control of the electoral system, of resources, move more potential enemies to leave the country as in Belarus or Cuba.

The government has distributed many thousands of Kalashnikovs and other weapons among its militias for some years now. In January of this year the National Assembly approved the new law about "Bolivarian" militias. The military has been training those militias with more or less rigour for some years already. Now they don't just have a new name, they are going to be scale d up.

If you click on the picture you will go to VTV, the governmental national TV site. There you can read about the "Bolivarian" militia, you can watch the president and a young woman in El Pao, in Northern Cojedes.

This woman is one out of 2000 persons (180 of them women), mostly from rural, poor areas who were spending three days in paramilitary training. This lady is an average Venezuelan. Most Venezuelans don't live in "the countryside", but they do live in cities that are anything but urban when it comes to available services and opportunities.

She is poor and her education is minimal. She has probably never left the country and has no ways of comparing things but what she gets through some filter. She has hardly any memories of life before 1998 and if she has, I am sure the pieces relating to previous governments are not good. Venezuelan governments had grown more and more ineffective with the years and rural areas had become more and more forgotten.

The national government is telling these people they are preparing themselves for any US invasion or attack by any US-supported movement. It is brainwashing them in a way that can only be compared to that of evangelical fundamentalists.

It does not help us at all that the most vocal opposition in Venezuela are people like this:

That is Ms Machado. She did a good job for Súmate. Still: it is not just a fatal picture with the wrong person. You just have to listen to her while trying to imagine how much time she has spent listening to people in El Pao, in El Tigre, in Maturín, in Pedernales, in big Miguel Pena or Libertador. She is running just to become a deputy for the most prosperous electoral district in Venezuela. Well, somebody has to do it and yet: a lot of people are putting most of their hopes, efforts and attention on stuff like that.

It does not help another of the most vocal leaders the opposition has right now is a guy like Ravell, with his FOX-News kind of journalism, who often goes to the US on vacation and to see his family there. Let me be clear: 1) FOX News journalism sucks and it isn't much better than VTV journalism and 2) although there is nothing wrong with going to the US or Europe on vacation, the vast majority of the people in Venezuela want to see leaders who are more grounded in Venezuela. They want to see people who have spent more of their free time talking to the average Venezuelans, not to the average inhabitant of a posh area of the capital.

It does not help that the few opposition leaders who are not from the capital's Eastern side are hardly heard anywhere.

The government has a couple of advantages:

1) the general level of education is very low and brainwashing is particularly easy, easier than in many other countries in South America (check out my posts on education)
2) most opposition leaders are indeed out of focus, they don't work outside their main 2-3 urban centres and beyond the TV cameras, they have no project or they don't know how to dissemiante their projects
3) the petrodollars will keep flowing
4) governments such as the Spanish government will keep supporting the Venezuelan regime as long as it gets juicy business deals (sure, and "promoting a climate of dialogue and understanding")
5) the far-right will find its way to promote extreme, undemocratic solutions, just like the far-left, to the detriment of most people, they will also be the ones helping the current leaders of the opposition

Social inequality was very high in Venezuela and things aren't getting any better. Now, though, the government in power knows how to do very effective brainwashing. Tensions will increase. The opposition is lead by people out of touch with the Venezuelans outside the Eastern Caracas cocoon. Groups challenging for an open, fair debate will be either rejected or ignored. Stupid people will try to promote violence and fear.

There are lots of weapons out there. There is some form of ideology - contradictory, rather superficial and all, but much more consistent than what the opposition groups offer -. There is resentment. There is ignorance.

We have a ticking bomb. We have minefields. We need courageous deminers.

Im Herzen Venezuelas: Guárico 2

Den Anfang liest man hier

Venezuela ist ein Land von Caudillos. Das war schon so während der spanischen Herrschaft, als conquistadores und deren Nachfahren die Kontrolle im Lande für sich allein beanspruchten und das war mehr so nach der Unabhängigkeit des Landes. Wie ich in einem vorigen Post geschrieben habe, ist die militaristische Neigung in Venezuela sowie der Personenkult besonders stark ausgeprägt. Páez war nicht nur General im Unabhängigkeitskampf, sondern auch dreimal Präsident. Er besaß unglaublich große Ländereien überall in Venezuela, er war als "caudillo de América" bekannt. Er war nur der prominenteste in Venezuela und vielleicht in Lateinamerika. In Venezuela gab es viele andere, wie Monagas, Guzmán und später Gómez.

Gemeinden, mit Namen von Militärmenschen

Auf jeden Fall haben diese Caudillos wenig für das Land getan. Bildung für arme Kinder war kein Thema. Bildung im allgemeinen war immer katastrophal im ganzen Venezuela, aber viel mehr so südlich von der Küste und weg von den Anden. Der geniale Erfinder und Tüftler, den Alexander von Humboldt im Jahr 1800 in Calabozo kennenlernte, war umso bemerkenswerter, als er in einem so entfernten Ort wohnte und forschte.

Guzmán fuhr in der zweiten Hälfte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts ein Gesetz für die kostenlose Bildung und die Schulpflicht ein, was aber wenig in der Wirklichkeit änderte. Erst mit den ersten Regierungen von AD gab es massive Anstrengungen, kostenlose Bildung und soziale Fortschritte bis zu den verlassenen Regionen Venezuelas zu bringen. Die Effektivität ließ aber mit der Zeit viel zu wünschen übrig. Das Land war extrem zentralisiert, Gouverneure und Bürgermeister wurden von der Zentralregierung bestimmt und waren letztendlich neue, extrem korrupte Minicaudillos. Das war auch so für Guárico.

Erst im Jahr 1989 konnten Venezolaner zum ersten Mal ihre Gouverneure und Bürgermeister selbst wählen. Die Leute von Guárico wählten für 1989-92 einen AD-Politiker. Für 92-95 war ein Copei-Politiker Gouverneur. Zwischen 1995 und 1998 war ein AD-Politiker wieder Gouverneur des Bundesstaates.

Eduardo Manuitt war der Sohn eines kleinen Bauers. Auf jeden Fall hat er seine Grundschule und bachillerato (ein Jahr weniger als Gymnasium) in Guárico gemacht. Er ging nach Valencia, um dort zu studieren, wo er aber vor allem politisch bei linken Gruppierungen tätig war. Er war Mitgründer der Causa R. Beim Tod seines Vaters kehrte er nach Guárico zurück und beschäftigte sich mit dem Hof der Familie und sowie mit politischer Arbeit für Bauerngewerschaften. Man muß hier betonen: es handelte sich um arme Bauer, nicht um die hacendados. Manuitt brach, wie Aristóbulo Isturiz und andere, mit causa Radical ab und schloß sich der MVR an.

Im Jahr 1998 wurde Manuitt mit den Stimmen der Chávez-Bewegung MVR und mit denen der Sozialististen MAS zu Gouverneur gewählt. Im Jahr 2004 wurde er wieder gewählt. Hier könnt Ihr ein Interview von 2006 auf Spanisch lesen. 2008 durfte Manuitt nicht wieder kandidieren, denn damals galt immer noch eine Amtszeitbegrenzung. Manuitt wollte, ganz im Sinne eines Caudillos, seine Tochter als neue Kandidaten des Chavismos zu machen, die anderen Führer der Bewegung waren aber dagegen: William Lara war ihr Kandidat. Weil Manuitt sich trotztdem für die Kandidatur seiner Tochter einsetzte, wurde er von der Partei ausgeschlossen.

Es gab drei Kandidaten: William Lara für die Regierungspartei, Manuitts Tochter für die Dissidenten von PPT und ein bekannter Volksmusiker der Region, der von allen Oppositionsparteien unterstützt wurde, Reynaldo Armas.

Die Ergebnisse der Gouverneurwahlen von 2008 ergaben eine deutliche Mehrheit für William Lara. Hier sieht man wie viele Stimmen jeder Kandidat in welcher Gemeinde bekam:

Jeder große Punkt entspricht 1000 Stimmen. Rote Punkte zeigen die Stimmen für William Lara. Rosa steht für Manuitts Tochter. Jeder gelbe Punkt entspricht 1000 Stimmen für Reynaldo Armas. Die Ergebnisse: 52.54% für William Lara, 33.20 für Lenny Manuitt und 13.42% für Reynaldo Armas. Man muss etwas in Venezuela nie vergessen: viele Leute hangen von Arbeitstellen bei der National- oder Regionalregierung ab. Sie werden deswegen die entsprechenden Parteien wählen.

William Lara war auch in Guárico geboren, angeblich stammte er auch aus einer armen Familie. Er hat Comunicación social an der UCV studiert. Comunicación Social ist die Fakultät, um Linksradikal zu werden. Ich weiß es: ich habe an der UCV studiert und dort konnte ich beobachten, wie so viele Studenten, die LKWs oder Autos bei jeder Proteste verbrennen wollten und sehr radikal waren da oder bei der Escuela de Historia eingeschrieben waren. Lara absolvierte später ein Master der politischen Wissenschaften an der Universidad Simón Bolívar. Hugo Chávez hat auch diesen Master angefangen aber nie beendet. Die Universidad Simón Bolívar ist eine der besten Universitäten Venezuelas, das aber eher in den Natur- und Ingenieurwissenschaften. Es ist für diesen Blogger ein Rätsel, was für Standards sie für die Studie der politischen Wissenschaften hat. Die Standards sind nicht so hoch: Chávez selbst denkt, dass die Menschheit erst vor 20-25 Jahrhunderten entstand.

Auf jeden Fall war William Lara 1997 einer der Mitgründer der MVR. Er wurde Abgeordneter und später Informationsminister. Kurz nachdem er Gouverneur wurde, gab er die Empfehlung, seinen Bundesstaat mit dem Bundesstaat Miranda zu vereinen, was einfach Wahsinn ist (hier die seine ersten Bemerkungen und hier seine Relativierung).

Etwas später kamen die Enthüllungen über Manuitts Reichtümer. Diese Bilder sollen ein Teil der Manuitt-Hacienda im Süden Guáricos zeigen:

Manuitt ist nun auf der Flucht. Er behauptet, er hätte nichts gestohlen und alles sei nur Teil der politischen Verfolgung. So wie bei Rosales habe ich meine Zweifeln. Ich frage mich, ob man solche Haciendas auch dann entdecken wird, wenn William Lara nicht mehr Gouverneur von Guárico ist.

Ein Phänomen, das noch zu untersuchen ist, sind die Morde vieler Bauer zum Teil in den Händen der Polizei in Guárico. Das hat es immer gegeben, zu Zeiten Manuitts war es aber sehr schlimm.

William Lara hat sich als besonders radikaler Politiker erwiesen. Im folgenden Video will er das Wort "Scheisse" unbedingt aussprechen. Dazu benutzt er als Vorwand ein sehr bekanntes Buch von Gabriel García Márquez, Der Oberst hat niemand, der ihm schreibt. Lara betont, Márquez habe den Nobelpreis gewonnen, als ob das die Benutzung dieses Wortes in diesem Kontext rechtfertigen würde.

Die Opposition ist nicht ganz ohne Erfolge in Guárico. In den 2008-Gemeindewahlen hat sie 2 der 15 Gemeinden für sich gewonnen. Diese Gemeinden kann man hier unten in blau sehen. Es sind die Gemeinde Roscio, wo die Stadt San Juan de los Morros ist und die Gemeinde Ribas, wo die kleine Stadt (bzw Dorf) Tucupido ist. In beiden Gemeinden hat keine einzelne Partei der Opposition die Mehrheit, es waren mehr als 10 Parteien, die zusammen arbeiten mussten.

Die Opposition muss ihre Strategie deutlich ändern. Auch wenn die Oppositionsführer nur in der Hauptstadt und zwei anderen Metropolen sein wollen, müssen sie erkennen, dass man nur dann zu einer Wende kommen kann, wenn man auch in den anderen Regionen eine größere Unterstützung, wenn man die Herzen Venezuelas erobern hat. Auch wenn Venezuela ein sehr urbanes Land ist, stammen viele ihrer Einwohner aus dem Land. Darüber hinaus denken viele Leute in Venezuela, dass "Stadt" nur die Hauptstadt und zwei andere Städte bedeutet. Mehr als ein Drittel der Bevölkerung leben aber in Städten, die mehr als 100000 aber weniger als 1000000 Einwohner haben. Einige Maßnahmen sind notwendig:

- viele Parteien müssen sich vereinen oder verschwinden; dafür müssen alle Parteien, die in der Zukunft eine wichtige Rolle spielen wollen, echte Vorwahlen und Transparenz einführen, sowie bestimmte Prinzipien und einen Plan für das Land schriftlich festlegen. Es kann nicht sein, dass wir 20 "liberale", 20 "sozialdemokratische", 20 konservative und noch 40 andersartige Parteien haben. Parteien als Platform für caudillos haben keine Zukunft mehr.
- man muss gut gebildete und ehrliche Führer in allen Gemeinden fördern, Leute, die sich für die Interesse aller einsetzen und nicht die einer Gruppe nur. Dafür muss man in diesen Regionen ständig anwesend sein, Projekte vorstellen, über Ideen für die nachhaltige Entwicklung der Regionen und des Landes sprechen und über die Notwendigkeit, Transparenz und Ehrlichkeit in der Region walten zu lassen.
- man muss die Studenten, die aus diesen Regionen kommen, als Multiplikatoren benutzen, so dass sie Pluralismus und Entwicklung für das ganze Land fördern und fordern - bei ihren Besuchen, in den Ferien, bei ihren Familien.
- man muss die Aufmerksamkeit der wichtigsten Medien auf diese Regionen und auf ihre Bedeutung für die Zukunft der Nation lenken