Thursday, April 15, 2004

A VENEZUELAN WEEK
Thursday 15, April 2004

Trying to absorb all the political events from one week of Venezuelan politics can make your head spin. Trying to make sense of them can make you nauseous.

After one week out of the country, the return was kind of a shocker. To resume it is really not worthwhile so I will prefer address the points that I was following before I left.

The case of the burnt soldiers

In what qualifies as vile story of the week, Chavez went to Fort Mara on Easter Sunday to give his weekly peroration. To begin with, he could have given it a break, it was Easter Sunday. But probably he could not resist the opportunity of trying to outshine the Church on its most important holiday.

There in a display of particularly tasteless cynicism he "assumed" responsibility for the lousy information that made him say two weeks earlier that the injuries were "light", leaving him as a fool when the next day private Bustamante died. But if that was not enough he promised full inquiry, even though as far as today press and a delegation of the National Assembly are refused entry to Fort Mara and the military is far from offering any substantive explanation. Which did not stop him from exculpating the high ranking officers from Fort Mara. And he added insult to injury refusing to accept the resignation of Jesse Chacon.

Thus it remains demonstrated once and for all that the said resignation was only a show to protect some obscure events, people and "mistakes" of that fateful day. We will probably never know the truth, just as we will never know what happened on April 11 2002 or so many other deaths that occurred since that date.

The case of the "invalid" signatures

As expected the Electoral Court emitted a final ruling restating all that it previously announced, namely that the questioned signatures should not be questioned considering that the criteria to question them were established AFTER the collection fact. And it put the Electoral Board on notice.

Even though this makes simple logical sense, as expected chavismo accused the Electoral Court of all sorts of crimes and corruption.

Now we have to wait for the full High Court to settle this conflict of competence between the two conflicting courts. The Constitutional Court still considers that the signature collection is a Constitutional matter and not an Electoral matter, not explaining of course the imbedded contradiction that those signatures are collected FOR and election. It is already clear that the Constitutional Court will not hesitate in blocking the general functioning of justice if it is what it takes to stop that Full Court from sitting and rule on that matter.

The case of the dysfunctional Electoral Board

One thing interesting coming from the Electoral Court is that it still exhorts the parties to reach an agreement without waiting from the final High Court ruling. In other words, the Electoral Court knows that no matter how right it is, South American legal tradition allows for all sorts of delays when they are convenient for the powers that be. If this does happen almost everywhere, it is quite spectacular in Venezuela today where the principles of separation of powers is paid lip service.

But the Electoral Board, CNE, is not cooperating. Strangely the three pro Chavez rectors are almost down to one, Jorge Rodriguez, and the other two rectors, supposedly representing the interest of the opposition are amazingly discreet considering the circumstances. One can genuinely wonder what is really going on there, even though we can observe negotiations going on as the opposition representatives and the Carter Center and OAS are seen going in and out of the CNE offices.

Yesterday finally the CNE announced its formula from "revalidating" the signatures. Unfortunately it is a scheme that was long ago known to be unacceptable by the opposition. And this one said so today, almost shutting down the negotiation road. They do have an argument though: they cannot really evaluate the CNE proposal as long as they do not know which are the final tallies for the November signature collection. That is right, today April 15, we do not know the final numbers of what was collected BEFORE December 2, 2003! Can the CNE really be that incompetent?

The case of the nasty Yankee

This of course has not stopped chavismo to do all sorts of anti North American declarations and taking advantage of the Iraq situation to try to distract from problems within Venezuela. The US embassy, Europe and the most South American countries are not fooled and Chavez seems to have a hard time to rally any significant. The weight of the recent human rights violation is weighing heavily on any Venezuelan diplomatic result.

What it all really means

We simply watching a deliquescent administration that has run out of ideas. The Chavez administration is now getting its hands on the cheapest rhetoric and is not afraid of illegal ways to pursue its only aim, staying in office.

Why such a dogged resistance against an election by an administration that claims to enjoy the support of the people? By a president that promises, as if nothing, that he will kick ass if any election comes? Why so many lies, distortions, avoidance? It is all very simple: the trail of corruption and crimes cannot be hidden anymore, they know that if they relinquish power, too many of them will face sooner or later the courts.

The heroic days of the Bolivarian Revolution to improve the fate of the downtrodden masses are over. The days of saving one's skin, and booty, have arrived.


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