The real unknown thus becomes how he is going to manage it. Through the past 6 years we have seen his doggedly thirst for power overcome any obstacle. Now we have a political system almost totally at his service. That his opposition has gone from blunder to blunder does not explain all. Like all the great megalomaniacs of history, Chavez has known how to adapt to circumstances, how to backtrack when needed, how to switch policies as required. His political genius, if evil, cannot be denied. But so was the political genius of Hitler, Francia, Stalin, Mussolini, Castro, Peron, or even Napoleon III.
Now we seem to be reaching the decisive time where all such systems must once and for all establish their unchallenged control. It is a testimony of Venezuela basic democratic culture that after 6 years Chavez has not quite managed to feel secure enough in office that he needs still a new offensive to complete the job. Within the next two years we will witness that offensive as Chavez will annihilate any democratic hope in Venezuela, leaving violence as the only way out of that first XXI century Latin American dictatorship.
During the recent weeks words have failed me to discuss this situation. It seems so unbelievable that sometimes I think that paranoia has finally reached my tired brain. Today reading El Universal I found quite a complete catalogue of some of the essentials in a "how to" set up an El Supremo regime, now called Socialism for the XXI century. You have to hand it to El Universal, they have been steadily documenting this takeover from even before Chavez made it to office. One must not forget that for example El Nacional almost openly supported the arrival to power of Chavez. But El Universal has been steady since 1992, a true Cassandra in its understated ways. In spite of a few mistakes and wishful thinking, El Universal retains the most credibility when the details of chavismo are revealed. Without further ado, let's visit some of the pages of Sunday's edition (and notice, I am ONLY USING SUNDAY ARTICLES).
The state treasury is my piggy bank
Of course, firing 20 000 people in 2003 and hiring uncounted numbers of political hacks to substitute them has bought quite a lot of damage to the Venezuelan oil monopoly, PDVSA. But logic is not a problem for Chavez who has started a campaign to blame anyone but him for the mismanagement and the drop in income from oil even though prices are still sky high. The culprits range from the "international companies" (your "anytime" guilty) who we are told will be forced to "pay" to the ludicrous CIA infiltrating the Zulia oil fields and "justifying" the recent militarization. Apparently they need to fire thousands of the 2003 hired folks, making you wonder how come the CIA has suddenly become that efficient. It seems that part of these workers, who chavistas used for many a political events, will be reassigned through the "System of Employment Democratization". George Orwell, where are you when we need you?
However among all of these disastrous news from PDVSA, seriously jeopardizing the future of the country, we did learn some interesting news: now we know where Chavez got his money to finance his obscene electoral effort in 2004. Normally PDVSA deposits all of its earnings, once its investments plans are met, into the Central Bank (BCV). This one uses the monies to pay the bills as decided in the budget voting, and according to the legal entitlements to different states and organizations. Well, it seems that depending on how you calculate oil production and oil prices, and according to what the oil minister Ramirez said he sent to the BCV, there is a gap of somewhere in between 2,300 to 4,000 million dollars since 2003. This is the price tag of discretionary cash for the "misiones" and the electoral campaign that Chavez received and that are not accounted for in the Nation's expenses. Without forgetting all that was processed through the pseudo-normal budgetary procedures of a state machinery campaigning full time for Chavez.
A convenient chronology of sorts of recent events and unrest in PDVSA exists in English.
Big Brother is watching you
And since we are discussing election financing. El Universal has obtained pictures of a success of Venezuelan programming ingenuity. From the Electoral Board comes a program that allows you to get the information for all voters in Venezuela from their names and addresses to how they signed and probably voted regarding the tenure of Chavez. No wonder the Tascon list could be buried a couple of weeks ago, it is not needed anymore with this new engineering prowess of the people that brought a new meaning to electoral cheating.
Now in a handy CD-ROM you can have the entire Electoral Registry in your office, no need to connect to the Internet and leave a trace. Very convenient, as displayed in the above picture, to make sure that the state services only reach dedicated chavistas instead of any citizen to which you work is due. I suppose that the red frame helps you decide faster. And the program is called, I kid you not, Batalla de Santa Ines 10.1. In other words, the right to vote has basically lost all of its secrecy since if you are in that list you will always be a suspect no matter what. If you were to change your mind, you would still remain a suspect for life. Technological fascism.
[note added in proof: Miguel did a more complete write up on this matter for those who wish more details on this modern era apartheid]
Strengthening the grip on society
Of course, the need to control the income of Venezuela directly, without any accounting goes together with the need to establish a police state where the Tascon list and Santa Ines 10.1 are the preliminary steps. Help from Cuba is escalating fast, and not only from the Cuban doctors who might actually be here just to do a job and send dollars to their families in Cuba, like any good migrant workers from poor countries. Apparently the Cuban presence would go from an admitted 1 800 in 2003 to 35 000 by the end of the year when it seems that the public health system will be in the hands of Cuban doctors. I really find it difficult to believe that Cuba can provide 30 000 doctors to Venezuela. I mean, will there be MD left in Cuba? What about Cuban MD elsewhere such as Brazil and Africa? No, let's not delude ourselves, not all of these 30 000 MD are MD. And let's not even go into the 5 000 sports trainers coming from Cuba. No, this is a proper invasion of Venezuela as Chavez must reach such a paranoid state that he can only trust in Cubans for his entourage. Cuban janitors soon in Miraflores?
All of this makes sense when we read the fascinating and scary analysis of Argelia Rios. Indeed, the difficulties of the challenges waiting for Chavez in the next two years require more than ever secure personnel like Cubans, advice from Castro before he gets too senile and all the money he can to bankroll this unfriendly corporate takeover of Venezuela.
In her rather brilliant exposition Argelia Rios describes us the reason and methods that Chavez is going to use to get another "cheque en blanco" just as he got one in 1999. That is, an unconditional vote of confidence, a blank check, to change Venezuelan structures just as Chavez did with the 1999 constitution, now, that it has served its purpose, a meaningless piece of paper. That check without the amount penciled in it is necessary if Chavez wants to create his "socialist state" without the possibility to go back, at least not in a peaceful way. A must read for the opposition as it faces its last opportunity this year.
All is in the details
But if Ms. Rios regales her with the blueprint, it is important to see that details are taken care of by the revolutionaries who have stopped all pretense of democratic inclination and fairness. For example Hato Piñero is back in the news. It seems that in its legal battle to take over the ranch without paying a penny to its long devoted and environmentally conscious owners, the government will not hesitate using any shoddy or illegal procedure, when not lying outright. Hato Piñero will probably be one of the text book cases in how the bolivarian riot of a revolution destroyed on purpose anything positive from the past just to retroactively justify its misdeeds. Meanwhile we are waiting for word from environmental organizations outside Venezuela who used to praise Hato Piñero.
Another aspect carefully worked out are economical controls. Since currency control has been established in early 2003, we have been seeing a consistent rise in new controls aiming plainly at subjugating market forces and anyone in the private sector that might not agree with the socialist objectives of the bolivarian riot. Some foreign institutes speak now openly of the self-destruction of the Venezuelan economy as the recent measures are almost certain to dry out the little bit of foreign investment that was still finding its way to Venezuela. Only a few oil companies might still dare to come, with a few involved into major construction projects, whose business will be guaranteed by international financial organizations who will of course charge Venezuela hefty interests.
Finally, we are observing the consistent new speak rising from everywhere. The week of April 18 we saw Caracas Mayor at Large and one of its boroughs Mayors, Libertador's Bernal insult each other, including gross improprieties from Bernal. In an interview of Barreto, who seems the provisional winner of the fight, Roberto Giusti finds a way to illustrate how the language of public officials is changing to fit the new Cuba dependency and the coming socialism. Actually, one wonder how come Mayor at Large decided to give the interview as it seems that he was more interested in criticizing Giusti than talking issues. But Giusti was too good for Barreto as this one was exposed for all to see.
Thus it is what I had to read in El Universal Sunday edition. And I will not describe to you what I read in El Nacional (not as bad) or the local rag (pathetic and mercifully not on line). The only real question here is how come this blogger is not taking to the bottle to deal with all of this.