Wednesday, October 20, 2004

News from the Venezuelan country side

I have been for the past two days in the boondocks. No Internet, the weakest of occasional cel phone signal. But always a radio supporting Chavez.

In fact, during the 4 hours drive Sunday I could verify that no matter what Chavez says about the media opposing him, you can hear his weekly broadcast of "alo presidente" everywhere, in every nook of the road, sometimes even the only signal available!. Worried about the burning tower I listened to the radio when usually I favor the hours of silence that driving offers me. Besides trying to get news, I tried to hear whether Chavez was as upset about the Eastern Tower burn as I was. I did not look that it was the case. Instead he spent the best of his more than 6 hours show (he has become such an anchor man!) campaigning. That means distributing grants and free bees, scolding his ministers in public to show that it is not his fault (though he never worries about why he makes such lousy appointments...) and supporting the sagging fortunes of Margarita governor which might be the only one of the chavista governors that might lose in spite of the now all but official fraud. Only an occasional phone call to the interior minister to check things out before going back to yet another string of empty promises and reminiscences of his life and readings. We even got a mini dissertation on Victor Hugo Les Miserables....

Today I am back in Caracas and the news have been pouring. We had of course the usual suspects trying to put the blame of Sunday disaster on whomever they could as long as they deflected it from them. But the most loathsome of the lot seems to have been the CSB director, Cabezas, who all but accused the firemen to have set the fire. Even Mari Pili Hernandez, notorious pro Chavez journalist, had a hard time not to choke on the CSB director outrageous words when she interviewed him (I had the radio in the boondocks:-).

If Chavez did care the least on the Sunday disaster, he would have already accepted the "resignation" of Cabezas. But his modern version of "Nero in front of Rome burning" will remain for the annals of low moments in chavismo history. I mean, I am not expecting Chavez to hold the firemen ladder, but gee, in civilized countries the CSB director would have "offered" his resignation by now, no?

Other news. The political scene is moving a lot as resignations of candidates running occur while the CNE rectors fight publicly and ask their colleagues to be removed from office. This seem all very complex and I will wait some before writing on it.

And to conclude, I drove in front of the burnt tower today and I must confess that in spite of my seething rage since Sunday I got strangely and surprisingly very touched. Whether we liked it or not, it had become one of our landmarks and the city will not be the same. Knowing that it will be probably years until they deal with it, we will have for years a painful reminder of all our Venezuelan weaknesses and vices..... Without the consolation that it might have been a lesson for us...

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