Saturday, December 06, 2003

CHAVEZ, THE SORE LOSER

Saturday 6, December 2003

Today chavistas decided to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Chavez election in 1998. What best opportunity “to demonstrate” that the people are still for Chavez, no matter the “Reafirmazo” that took place a few days ago with 30% of the country.

So, people were summoned to gather in several places and asked to march to Avenida Bolivar for the habitual grandiloquent meeting that Chavez loves so much. A gigantic stage was set with the huge pictures of the beloved leader as background. I am sure paid by loyal supporters and not by state monies… The convocation to several starting points of course was a measure of precaution just in case the assistance were not to be too great: chavistas could always point that elsewhere more people were coming.

As it turned out they were in luck this time and did manage a rather decent turnout. It seems that the winds of defeat have scared enough chavista officials into shaking up Chavez followers to attend the rally. One of my friends in the government where he works was told directly that they were counting on him at the Petare starting point where that office section would gather. This was the first time ever he was told to do such a thing! Fortunately, he had a good excuse not to go. He also told me that many of his co-workers were suddenly prey of an excitement that they never displayed on previous chavista rallies that they usually “pretend” to attend while actually taking the day off.

At any rate, full buses arrived from outside of Caracas and as usual have been seen lining by the hundreds the vicinity of Avenida Bolivar. I am sure that all of these where volunteer bus drivers, no?

The Petare march started at around 10 PM and the TV showed plenty of people drinking beer already. By the time that that march reached Altamira at noon the effect of beer (and other) was felt as a rowdy crowd assaulted Altamira place, the rallying point of the opposition. Only the local mayor was there to guarantee order but he quickly had to be evacuated as desperate (?, or so they claimed later) assemblymen of the Chavez side were trying to stop the rampage. Of course, the stage set up there for already a year was covered with pro-Chavez graffiti, and the dissident military nowhere to be seen. They could have shown their mettle I think, after one year of doing very little but blowing hot air from that tropical version of the Speaker’s corner. But I digress.

Even the statues of the Virgin Mary placed by devoted opposition fans were not spared. They were floated around the crowd, disappeared in it and eventually returned, one painted in red and the other beheaded. Quickly a few of the chavista around claimed that that was done by “infiltrated agents”. If that charge is true, then there must have been quite a lot of double agents in the march and the security service particularly inefficient. The sad fact is that the crowd that invaded Plaza Altamira was a drunken crowd and that was for all to see on TV, a sad reflection of what it takes to attract people to chavista marches. Whether that crowd was deliberately driven there by the organizers searching the opportunity to avenge the “affront of last week end” is a different question, but the crowd was abundantly dotted with ethylated people and control was lost. I am sure tonight that more than one chavista leader must be wringing their hands at the PR damage of today’s TV footage.

But that was just a prelude. Avenida Bolivar indeed saw a very nice turnout, maybe the best for a Chavez rally. Chavistas are obviously scared to lose their jobs and privileges.

The great leader arrived and made his way through the adoring crowd in a now quite worked out ritual. His speech from the altar was as brimstony as ever. Actually, if George W. Bush dared to say about Democrats a quarter of what Chavez said of the opposition he would be quickly be impeached by the Republican Congress. I will spare the details and just summarize the whole speech. “The Bolivarian Revolution is great. We are not going to let it steal away from us by forged signatures”. It took about two hours to say that.

If nothing is really new in such an activity, what is different this time is the grim determination of Chavez not to recognize the signatures collected by the oppostion, even if the Electoral Board certifies them. I am afraid that we are about to see more and more disgraceful scenes in the next months. The government seems to be losing its control, and the one of its followers. Their authoritarian tendency shone through today and they are only but a step away from tropical fascism. It will not be too soon the day of the recall election.

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