It would be a mistake to underestimate the internal problems of chavismo as a movement. Certainly it benefits of two things: a unique leader and a string of mediocrities to nonentities only too willing to follow. But if this is the bulk, there are still a few that are not willing to abide by any dictate coming from above, a few who have not surrendered every single neuron to El Surpremo.
But the casual observer of Venezuela, perhaps misguided by the abundant pro-Chavez propaganda found around the international media and web these days (courtesy of oil supply threatened by a variety of storms) might wonder how come a "democratically" elected leader is facing suddenly at home such problems, or how come he is taking such drastic measures against, say, private property when the money is flowing into the national cash register.
The root reason is quite simple: Chavez leadership is based on the hope that the state largesse will reach each and everyone who pledges allegiance to his rule. As people realize this, more and more flock to the leader, or pretend to flock to him. Soon, the natural consequence of nouveau Keynesian distribution reaches the unavoidable end: there is simply not enough money to go around and a few must be sacrificed. It is the eternal fate of any populist government who chooses facile solutions for complex problems which can only be resolved by actual creation of wealth. Let's look at how this applies in some recent and well publicized cases.
The case of the unsatisfied representatives
We have to meet Assembly elections in December. According to the much violated 1999 constitution and its derivative laws, political parties should have internal primaries and even sex quotas in their candidates. Chavez, mindful of how easy people can defect has decided to select personally only truly reliable candidates. Farewell internal democracy, something amazingly even criticized in some pro Chavez pages. Not that the opposition showed much of a democratic bent in selecting its candidates but at least it experienced a comprehensive internal consultation loosely based on rather meaningless electoral results. At least, a healthy discussion was for all to see, something that this blogger cannot remember happening inside chavismo since at least 1999.
The consequences of this candidate imposition on the chavismo base were not surprising. I will just name two notable ones. Some of the seating representatives that did not get the nod for reelection decided to run again anyway. They have been excluded from Chavez party, the MRV. The reelected Trujillo governor has decided to present his own list of candidates for his state, against the list imposed from Miraflores Palace. He has been promptly excluded from the MVR, a governor!
The case of the unsatisfied candidates
Of course, being there only 167 seats to furnish at the National Assembly, a whole bunch of people who have demonstrated clear popular appeal have been left aside anyway. Such as the leader of the Tupamaros in the popular 23 de Enero neighborhood, or Lina Ron, the bleached blond pasionaria who is the only true leader in chavismo after Chavez. That she is a real leader and to his left certainly did not please him and hence her placement toward "other functions at the service of the revolution". But Ms. Ron wants to make sure that if she is not allowed to run, she will at least be given "something". That she can blackmail the MVR (if she were to call her supporters not to vote, that would cost chavismo at least two seats in Caracas) is probably the reason why she feels her life at risk. In an obscure incident that involved her body guards and the mayor of Vargas state (where she could also bring down a seat) she was almost arrested and claimed that they tried to kill her. She did not stop at that, she also claimed that the state TV, VTV, which was present at her side and filmed everything, did not show any of it, and thus "censored" the truth, according to Ron.
The case of the unsatisfied anchorman
This Lina Ron declaration as to VTV applying censorship to her version of the events was indeed quite something: "I am ashamed that it is Globovision that is interviewing me when VTV has all the film". Globovision, la bête noire of Chavez, and the only media now carrying significant criticism of the Chavez incompetent administration cannot be blamed if disgruntled chavistas go more and more to its reporters to announce their grievances, duly transmitted by the open mic of "Alo Ciudadano" the only TV program who allows anyone to call in for three hours everyday!
But things must be really screwy at VTV when the only star reporter they had, Walter Martinez, slammed the door after denouncing corruption in the Chavez administration (and unbelievably that someone like Martinez can say that "the truth is hidden from Chavez by his entourage"). Mr. Martinez, who has made of his one eyed condition a bravely assumed trademark, was last June awarded a government prize for journalism. But those were the days. Now, he is on one side nearly excoriated by the official VTV position but gets in Aporrea rounds of applause and support. It seems that Chavez figured out that the declarations were grave enough and he intervened as usual: to quell any dissidence. In the lamentable Hojilla show of VTV, the surprise was Chavez himself as a caller to try to shut up the speakers from their support to Martinez. And thus Chavez himself signified the final disgrace of Martinez who, curiously, also emitted an opinion that is usually shared by the left of Chavez, people such as the Tupamaros or Lina Ron. Interesting…
It would be easy to gloss over this Martinez incident as the character himself was a rather arrogant journalist. But that Chavez himself intervened and that this incident also fits other censorship attempts, one even to pro Chavez Ultimas Noticias, are the telltales of the chavismo malaise: Chavez is preparing for a battle and he will not tolerate any dissidence, in particular as he seems to be surprised by it himself.
The case of the disgruntled public employees
These are just too numerous, and numerous enough that they managed to severely perturb Chavez trip to Bolivar state earlier this week. Simply put, the revolution is not reaching all those it is supposed to reach, and after 7 years of Chavez autocracy, people are getting tired of waiting.
Thus as a conclusion it is funny top observe that all the vices previously seen in populist governments, even in Venezuela (see CAP 2, for example) are happening here in spite of the most messianic leader we ever had. And all the repression mechanisms destined to preserve the autocrator are unavoidably put into place. Eventually when all is said and done, people do not want Socialism of the XX1 century and such crap, they want a stable job, be it Lina Ron at the National Assembly (which this blogger happens to think she probably deserves more than 95% of the Chavez candidates), be it in the public administration; and they all want a government who does not show increasingly obvious sign of unfathomable corruption, besides its inefficiency. Mr. Martinez, for all of the reasons he might have had and his not very pleasant personality, is the sign that people are tired of seeing the chavistas nouveau riche flaunt more and more, and produce less and less.
More to come, I can assure you.