Monday, May 26, 2003

May 26, 2003

The reality in which the Chavez administration is living these days is the looming recall election. This vote on Chavez rule is available to the opposition as of August 19, after fulfilling some specific requirements. All serious opinion polls, and the vehemence of the government in denying them, indicate that indeed Chavez is likely to lose the election. That is, if this one takes place. And the administration is not sitting still.

The first strategy is to make sure the opposition will have trouble to finance the recall election. The economic crisis is a godsend to Chavez. With his hijacking of the oil industry he has enough money for his pet projects and his supporters. This is an excellent carrot to rally his supporters and show the other side that if he happens to win then they would really be in trouble. Obviously they should reconsider their opposition. The daily reminder of what Chavez can do to their finances is the currency control installed since January 22.

It would be better to legally find a way to block or postpone the election until Chavez improves his numbers or manages to trump the cards in his favor and win. The sneaky way that is being used to name the electoral council, the miscellaneous laws to limit freedom of speech, tamper the composition of the high court, regulate the way a referendum can be called are all maneuvers to reach this goal that cannot be totally shut up since it is written into the 1999 constitution.

But if everything else fails, if the opinion polls do not improve, if the private sector accepts to bleed to death to finance the election, if the international pressure is too strong to resist and the legal tricks cannot be implemented fully, there is still the unrest card. Creating commotion is a good way to justify a state of emergency and adjourn sine die any type of election.

Why is Chavez so bent in not losing any election? One could say that no politician likes to lose elections but in the case of Chavez this goes further. Chavez aspires to be a world leader, the heir of Castro. All his international activities, all his support of Cuba no matter what, all his anti-globalization speeches aiming at rallying the new left around his persona bespeak to this frame of mind. Castro has never subjected himself to a free election and after 45 years is still alive and troublesome. In Nicaragua eventually the Sandinistas accepted to take the risk of an election. They lost and they became irrelevant on the world stage, becoming just “another” Nicaraguan political party. Chavez knows very well that if after 4 years of rule an election sanctions his system, he will become irrelevant on the world stage. He cannot bear the thought.

Plenty of factual evidence of Chavez strategy can be found reading any Venezuelan newspaper through May. Indirect evidence can be found by reading the pro-Chavez media that are strangely silent on certain events such as the land seizures. They all amount to a good example of “la politique du pire”, the politics of the worst, made famous by Louis XVI during the French Revolution. Chavez is playing at creating a controlled havoc in the hope that he will reach eventually his ultimate goals, regardless of what people think or suffer. Chavez should be reminded that it cost Louis his head.

[1] This is the last installment of a series of articles on the Chavez counter-offensive, started on May 20

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