Monday, September 22, 2003

IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
(NOT by Cole Porter)

Monday 22, September 2003

We have had off track fireworks Saturday.

At around 1 AM a bomb exploded in the barracks close to Miraflores, in the parking lot of the military detachment that ensures the security of the presidential compound (and then more as we could see from the pictures but that is another story). The fire department was not allowed in and at 2 AM a group of soldiers was dispatched to clean up the street of any glass debris (and any possible evidence). Rumors of course went wild, not helped by the Interior Ministry whose head changed completely the “official” version through the day, none of them of course satisfactory whatsoever. The only thing that was discarded is the possibility that a passerby threw above the 10 feet plus wall a bomb powerful enough for the damage done. If that were true, Venezuela has at least one gold medal assured in Athens next year. Now the story seems to be that it was either of: “mishandling” of explosives (handling of explosives at midnight?) or a “terrorist” attack (at midnight, in one of the safest area of the compound? too far from Miraflores to do more than awaken the president? and with what kind of internal complicity to get there?). The reason is actually irrelevant since we will never know the what-s and why-s. After all we are waiting for the investigation results of so many more important explosions that have happened this past year….

The same day but at 11 PM this time a strange shooting happened at Plaza Altamira. The shots were exchanged between the DISIP (state secret police cum FBI) and the police department of the Chacao district. Plaza Altamira is of course the headquarters of the military dissidence that just never ends and seems everyday to serve less and less of a purpose. The curious aspect of this event is that the DISIP acted without a mandate to show, right after Chavez started one of his lengthy “cadenas”, thus making sure that no TV could show live the events from Plaza Altamira. Incidentally, this is not the first time that a “cadena” coincides with suspicious maneuvers from Chavez. At any rate, today still we do not know for sure what happened exactly and what were the reasons. The responsible official of the interior ministry. Mr. Azuaje, blandly said that the secret police did not have to justify its actions and covert operations needed not be reported, as if raiding the Plaza Altamira were a covert operation. From the other side the Mayor of Chacao the Chacao Police thought it was an abduction and that when everything was over, the DISIP promptly removed any evidence taking away officers hurt in a car crash while they were escaping.

What is interesting there is that the dissidents did indeed have a self defense plan that worked, that the DISIP came with a whole bunch of unidentified cars, that the neighbors got up and banged their pots and pan to make an awful racket, that the DISIP had no qualms to fire at the Chacao Police coming to the site to see what was going on, that the Chacao mayor came and was held at gun point briefly, etc… Many of these stories dressed with tales of Cuban accents among the DISIP guys.

And of course next day Chavez excoriated the Chacao Police and Mayor, obviously his next target after the Metropolitan Police has been done for last November.

What to make of all this? Clearly we have a government that does not even pretend to give credible accounts. In addition, the government is clearing testing the capacity of response of the opposition strongholds, which is the only way to interpret the Plaza Altamira events. At the same time it is trying to “create” events that will give itself some fake legal excuse to intervene organizations that do not agree with him.

If not glamorous, it is all quite simple.

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