Saturday, April 23, 2005

Democracy in Venezuela: going nowhere fast

Our quite battered democracy was deliciously illustrated this week.

Electoral fraud within the MVR


The MVR, Chavez official party, was holding its internal elections in view of the municipal elections in August (the real target being of course the National assembly election in December). Well, apparently it was quite a mess in some states, and in Caracas it became a public show of disgust when on April 19, Caracas holy day, its mayor Bernal was booed in public by an angry crowd for his alleged electoral fraud. His retort? "they are adecos!". That is, true chavistas and revolutionaries would never question what their leaders decided! (1)

Unfortunately the mayor at large of Caracas does not seem to support him much. I remember when AD was accused of the very same crimes that the MVR is accused of. But those were other days, democracy was improving then until it even allowed an anti democratic movement to make it to office. Right now, Bernal has a bunch of people on Bolivar's square on hunger strike, with all the cameras filming while the only TV station that does not show anything is the state TV, VTV, with the communications minister, Izarra, reported to be furious. The situation overall must be quite bad as the MVR is going directly to the High Court to postpone the deadline for filing. Indeed, "justice" might work for them and they need time to sort out the conflict with their "allies". I can imagine what would NOT happen if, say, AD would go and ask for a one week delay...

I must admit that I am enjoying to see some chavistas receive their own bitter medicine. It always happens in all revolutions, they purge constantly, they just did not know it until this week.

Chile's president Lagos receives the Venezuelan opposition

Ricardo Lagos visited Venezuela this week. As a socialist from the time of Allende, who has known the roads of exile, and one who had a very difficult election 4 years ago, one thing we know is that he is not a fool and that he has learned his lessons. Now, he benefits of an excellent popularity for someone already in office for many years and an economy that trots along nicely as his socialist tradition does not stop him from making successful trade deals with the USA. In short, Lagos is all what Chaves is not, and without a sea of oil, only the hard work of his people that he defends as best he can. To drive home the point that his country is on the verge of first world status, the primary election to succeed him will be run by two women who ride high in the polls, no matter which opposition candidate they might face. Chile is on the verge of having the first female president elected on her own political merits. Not even the US seems close of such a change in mores!

No wonder Chavez had had so many problems with Chile. Lagos represents for Chavez all the antithesis of his machismo, intolerance, economic failure, chaos, egoism, autocracy, and what not. But times have changed and Chile needs markets, so Lagos will stop in Venezuela since it seems that this unsavory character might be around for a little bit longer.

However quite a visit it is, in particular if one compares it to the recent one from Rodriguez Zapatero, an utter disgrace which is still trailing the deficient Spanish diplomacy at home. Lagos has not only avoided all the pitfalls of any visit to Chavez, but he has even been able to receive all the Venezuelan opposition and offer a sincere hearing to their claims without creating a diplomatic incident (2). It must be said that Chavez could hardly criticize him for doing so, after all Lagos had the outmost democratic weapon: he had among the people that accompanied him to the meeting a legislator of his local opposition! A detail by the way that he stressed on when he received folks (and presumably he stressed also when he met with the government) What could Chavez complain about when it has been ages since he has not even given a press conference in Venezuela where independent journalists can ask the hard questions? Lagos has no problems meeting journalists anywhere in the world, or at home…

Chile seems now the most advanced democracy in South America, the most prosperous state, and the one with best growth perspective and happiness for its people. That is why his president can travel with such confidence. The total opposite of Venezuela, fast sinking in abjection, only received well by rogue regimes and ignoramus Spaniards who think they can control the beasts (plural intended as Rodriguez Zapatero pretends to wash up Castro bloody hands). Even vice president Rangel is rumored to consider retiring in Chile….

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1) The root of all the mess is that people vote MVR because they vote for Chavez, not out of love for the MVR who ranks low in any poll of "confidence". Minor allies of Chavez know that unless they manage to get on the MVR lists they will not be elected. MVR is reluctant but then again the "allies" have threatened to set a separate list which could be enough to cost MVR a few seats, in particular as the opposition shows signs to get its act together. That is, unfortunately for Chavez, his "allies" are still necessary if he wants to remove all opposition.

2) During Rodriguez Zapatero visit, only a fraction of the opposition accepted to meet with him, and with great reluctance. Then RodZap was questionably coming to sell weapons and instruments of repression (tear gas) while Lagos is selling wine and other goodies. It seems that Zapatero's socialists have forgotten their Franco period whereas Lagos has not forgotten his Pinochet one. It seems that Rod Zap polls are suffering lately... Imagine that...

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