Saturday, January 11, 2003

Friday 10, January 2003

Today I decided to go back to San Felipe tomorrow. Although I do not want to reopen business for many reasons ranging from “will I have enough gas for deliveries” to “will it be safe to drive around?” I still need to reopen for as long as I can. To boost morale for the workers that might be afraid that they have no more jobs. For the sales department that have been working through the holidays giving consulting for our clients and preparing the work orders, etc… To avoid losing a sense of life, to stop sitting down in front of the TV and wait for the end, whichever it might be.

But of course I had to deal with some trivial matters before thinking lofty thoughts and one was to get my wireless phone fixed. Well, my company has all its agencies closed and they only reopened their main Caracas office this week. I had to stand in line for 4 hours (!). But it was actually fun as we started a discussion group anti Chavez. After 4 hours I was told that my phone could be fixed but there was no way to tell when considering the “situation”. Besides they had a promotion where they credit you twice your average monthly balance toward a new piece of equipment. All in all for an extra 10 bucks above the estimated repair price I got a new phone… If I bore you with this story is to point out that we can still with mundane matters, although it takes almost 5 hours, line and service included. Well, the little group parted the best friends in the world… I have to say that during all this chat nobody did proffer any misplaced word towards Chavez, something that surprised and pleased me.

Meanwhile back at the ranch Chavez was not having as much regards for his opposition. In what is possible one of his worst performances he went to San Carlos in Cojedes to commemorate Zamora, a sort of guerilla leader of the XIX century that played Robin Hood while improving his economic lot. Around 1 PM he commandeered all the networks and gave a truly awful speech. This speech was a stream of improprieties and total disregard of the constitutional state that himself had renovated supposedly with his 1999 constitution. This poor constitution has been violated so much by his father that one has got to have a Freudian outlook to the situation. But I digress. A few jewels:
1. He gave the order for the army to develop plans to seize food supplies if the owners keep them to themselves to starve the people. That perhaps they have stocks because nobody is buying or they have no gas for deliveries does not seem to be a factor. And of course he added that no indemnity would be paid to such criminals.
2. He named by name some people in a way that pretty much seemed a “fatwah”. Salman Rushdie now has company.
3. He told that we needed to replace the corrupt and criminal justices of the high court, forgetting that he had them named a couple of years ago. And no proof of corruption was offered.
4. He gave orders to prosecute the opposition leaders for crime against humanity or some such equivalent. The April 11 shootings have not been prosecuted yet and his followers have stonewalled the formation of a “truth commission”. We will see what moves faster in court.
5. Etc…

He cast the fight between “true patriots” and “traitors”. He exhorted people to “cure themselves from the venom planted in their breasts by the ‘golpista’ media”. Golpista are the people that apparently have been trying to oust him with a coup. It includes now anybody that differs from his views.

He concluded his speech giving away “247 ultra modern apartments that thanks to the revolutionary Bolivarian government subsidies will cost only 6 million Bs. (4000 USD) instead of the normal 12 million”. I kid you not.

I think Chavez his giving a new meaning to populism.

Meanwhile back at the “Real Life” ranch. Most shipping companies have decided not to send ships to Venezuela. One big order that we needed is postponed until who knows when. Banks closed more than yesterday, reaching more than 80 % banks closed for the day, and most grocery stores again. Mess at schools kept going on. The oil industry on strike reported yet new oil slicks, the government reported more “normalcy”. Somewhere some march was beaten up by some hoodlums.

The opposition leaders, in part understandably, raised the ante. This is starting to worry me because it looks that the opposition is blocking any possible compromise. Not that I think compromise seems possible at this point, but perhaps with their unjustified foreign bad press the opposition should make an extra effort. I have sensed that some people are starting to think that we should wait for the recall election in the second half of the year. I attribute that to them being afraid of the recent rhetoric. But they are fools probably. Chavez is on record now to say that he will not allow the non-binding referendum of February 2. He has sent some generals to say that they will not accept an unconstitutional referendum. Of course that the high court has not ruled yet on that does not seem to be a problem for them.

I asked my father if he thought we were peeking at the edge of the economical abyss. He calmly replied from his 78 years of experience and several Venezuelan crises that we had fallen in it already. I did not bother asking if we were looking at the edge of the political abyss.

But I do not want to close this on such an unfortunate mood. Today reports came from the Bush administration to get more involved through a “friendly countries” group to reinforce Gaviria. We will see.

Though again the Washington Post fails to understand the real legal nature and constraints of the Venezuelan system of referendum and recall elections, but then again few people here understand them. In a previous posts I explained how the August recall election system is only a starting point and the recall election could not be held before December 2003 at the earliest.

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