Sunday, October 30, 2005

Again, at a cross roads in Venezuela

The judicial decision of Thursday legalizing an electoral fraud, bringing also a new constitutional violation by the constitutional court itself, forces us to consider once again our options. Not that we have that many. Let's first look at some facts.

1)The obvious chumminess of the "independent" powers during the Thursday hearing, showing how lonely the plaintiff was, how all the state powers were in perfect unison against anyone even dreaming of questioning them, should give pause. We all knew it was like that. What is disturbing is that they do it so openly now.

2)But what about the plaintiff, AD? Besides being ridiculed, it got the kiss of death when the infamous Vice Prez Rangel congratulated AD as being like its good old days when it favored institutionalism. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry at these words of the Vice P. What happened Thursday seemed more an MVR as the caricature of the AD of Carlos Andres Perez who controlled quite a lot of power and was quite corrupt instead of the AD of Leoni who had to make compromises with a significant opposition. Was the Vice being ironic? Was the Vice recognizing that AD had caved in to chavismo, lending itself to that judicial farce and that its reward would be the title of "official" opposition? Or, was it the real role of AD within the opposition?

3)A simple observation to all this is that chavismo will not stop at anything to make sure that Chavez and his party, the MVR, will have all in favor to win an election. This should be a sobering thought now that it is all in the open, no more pretense. Violence if needed cannot be far behind.

4)A simple extrapolation is that the electoral system of Venezuela is now hopelessly rigged to favor chavismo, from the CNE to the electoral court of appeals. If we add to it gerrymandering, double voting and the like, even if Chavez would be willing to concede an electoral defeat, something that this blogger thinks will happen when hell freezes over, the opposition would have to win by at least 10% to squeak to a bare majority.

So what is there left to do?

The opposition options

They are few and all require that they act united and with resolve.

Option A: they decide to go to election

This implies that in the space of one month the opposition has to come up with a simple and strict electoral offering for the 2006 session period. Post 2006 is of the presidential election. The other thing that the opposition needs to do is establish a system to defend its vote. That implies at the very least to get about 30% of ballots actually counted with a coordination of activities such as at EVERY polling station the opposition manages to place its witness who will stand up to the chavista mob rule under the protection of a only too often complacent army.

There are also many other issues that have been detailed in the past in this blog, but this late in the game opposition would be lucky to be barely able to put these two above together. Chavismo has succeeded by using the "morochas" issue to distract the opposition and the public opinion on what really matters, organization a successful electoral bid.

Option B: they decide not to go to election

This very valid option will only work if all of the opposition agrees and I am pretty sure we cannot count on AD for that, at least not after the sorry show of Thursday. But it also requires that the opposition does more than just stay home. On Election Day all candidates from the opposition must have been withdrawn with a clear explanation as to why they did it: a new CNE is a must. And on Election Day everybody must be in the street protesting. Not necessarily blocking the streets but waving flags at every corner, for at least a couple of hours, while the TV cameras film polling stations empty, and the international observers observe the streets rather than the polling stations.

Any abstention strategy that does not reach this is doomed to defeat, to ignominious defeat as chavismo will simply laugh its way out to the bank. Abstention has never booted a government unless it is a militant one. Those who prone abstention in Venezuela without offering a real organization for it are as much serving Chavez as AD by going to court and running for office anyway after losing the ruling.

It is a good point to mention the words of Rosalio Cardinal Castillo Lara about a week ago. In a rather strong statement he called for using, in a pacific way, the famous article 350 of the constitution which supposedly allows for civil rebellion when the constitution is violated. This stupid article, placed in the constitution to exculpate retroactively the 1992 Chavez coup d'etat, is of almost impossible application unless you have a Lech Walesa leading the people. And certainly an octogenarian Cardinal is not going to be the one leading that fight. So, why did the Cardinal say such words when he should have known better? And not mentioning the fast distancing of the Vatican representative from the Cardinal position when we all know that he is a close friend of the new Pope?

I personally think that the Cardinal has put the opposition in front of its moral choices. He told the opposition as a whole that if they want Chavez out they will have to take risks, to sacrifice personal comfort and security. That next time they take a large scale action it cannot be like the general strike where they all hoped that the oil guys were going to do the job for them while most were only too happy to have the banks and food stores open a few hours a day, while going back and forth to the marches through the comfort of the subway.

Chavismo Pyrrhic victory

But for all its smiles on Thursday, as all the thugs of the regime were congratulating themselves about a risk-free victory, the Vice knew better. There is also another reason why Rangel congratulated AD: he knows that an election where no one comes is worthless. By congratulating AD he might also be trying to motivate Chavez supporters to go to vote as if AD were reviving, even if chavismo must resort to AD resuscitation. The thing that chavismo fears the most is an abstention of 70% or more. There is no way to hide such a disaster at a time where "participatory democracy" is cantankerously proclaimed everywhere by Chavez, a few months after Chavez set the goal of 10 million votes in 12/2006. Thursday celebration party managed to gather a rather meager attendance in front of the TSJ building. Clearly, the "morochas" issue was barely a blip for chavistas who know that no matter what they will win any election. Chavismo seems rather far from that 10 million, even quite far from the alleged 6 million of August 2004, victim of its own treachery with its own people.

All of this does not bode well for Venezuela.

PS very important

I think it is very appropriate to include this absolutely fantastic Washington Post editorial as a foot note of this post, in particular right after the concluding sentence. If Human Rights are alredy so threatened as Chavez "supposedly" is riding high in the polls and is stably installed in Miraflores, imagine what will be happening when he has not such confidence anymore.

Codicil

There is also the question as to why such a drive to stamp out the opposition out of parliamentarian existence. Even as the "morochas" issue was discussed and there was a possibility that they would be trashed, chavismo was already announcing that it had an alternative: they would be promoting all its single district candidates as if they were running on their own initiative, as "independents". I kid you not! Somehow as they elected the constitutional assembly of 1999 where using an electoral trick (el kino) they got 97% of the seats for barely 60% of the vote (and then they wonder how come so many people are so unwilling to accept that 1999 constitution...)

When I was studying philosophy in high school I was taught that fanatics are actually unfortunate people, people who have a deep seated doubt about their ideas and beliefs. That is why they are so intent in erasing any evidence that people disagree with their positions. This knowledge served me well when I lived in the US of A. I used to be amazed by the fanatics of the religious right that harassed me in the many civil rights marches I joined. Now, I see the same when fundamentalist pseudo leftist chavistas destroy all in their wake. Thursday they were acting more like a fascistic court of justice and its vulgar accomplices, than any modern and self assured social democratic movement. Thugs always end up as Fascists. Or Stalinists. Your pick.

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