Since December 4 2006 Hugo Chavez has been diligently setting up the frame work for an authoritarian regime that will ensure his stay in power as long as he wishes, which means a for life thing à la Castro.
The only surprise is the speed at which he has decided to finish setting up his personal autocracy. He has at least 6 full years ahead to implement the changes he wants, so why the rush, why the aggression (today he even threatens to nationalize grocery stores). Why? Inheritance crisis brewing in Havana? The fear that oil prices might not hold high enough to allow him to keep buying votes and allies? Fear of Venezuelan inner demons, the apparitions of rivals from within his movement that must be checked before they have time to create their own personal base? Afraid that the teflon might wear out faster than expected? Whatever the reason is, Chavez has been speeding up his socialist take over which is little else than gathering into his hands all the real power in the country in a way that it could never be taken away by peaceful means. Along the way an army of adulators, sycophants and enablers is only too willing to favor such a return to a barbaric past.
In the last 4 posts I have been covering the basic aspects of this process. There are more points that I could have added but the reading of these posts should be enough to make any democrat in the world worry about the future of Venezuela, and by extension, Latin America. It should be clear to all that any system that is built for one man’s ambition at the expense of the minority rights cannot have a bright future, no matter what pious social excuse is advanced. The historical precedents are too numerous, temporary insanity will not cut it as a defense.
I have covered first the political set up in which the new changes will be taking place. Then I have covered the institutional, cultural and ideological plans of the regime. I have discussed how the control of the economy will develop. I included in the economy control management of corruption, not its elimination, as corruption will play a big part in taming Venezuela, serving Chavez well. And I finished by discussing the constitutional changes which are simply the excuse to make it all legal. Ethical and moral it will not be, but legal it certainly will, allowing the world to make Venezuela what we have seen from the Sudeten to the Darfur.
What is more worrying about this whole unedifying story is that so many people seem so willing to go along. The success of Chavez in getting people to trust him even as he delivers very little else but some social cash payments is undeniable. He has mesmerized an amazing part of the country who decided that their only future is as a dependency of the state. Democracy, human rights, stable jobs, savings are all empty words when you live in a barrio, where your life has lost any value there, when you have not been able to find a job in months and must resort to sell contraband in the streets to survive. In some type of perverse Stockholm syndrome, the people have decided to trust the aggressor in making their lives better someday. When you reach such levels of discourse, discourse becomes useless. Chavez feeds on lack of discourse, on perpetuating misery as people will only become even more dependent of him. In 6 years for now, it will have been 14 years of chavismo and brain washing. Half of the country will not remember what it was like to have a real 9 to 5 job. Half of the country will not even have a notion of what it was to have a productive job, to strike it on one’s own in life.
We are back to the days of "fellow travelers", at home or abroad, and we know which will be the consequences for the future of Venezuela and also for the future of this continent. There is violence at the end of the road and Chavez knows it. But then again he is violent, he likes violence and he has shown in the past that as a coward he has no problem in having other people's blood run down the street.
It is the same awful story of autocracy replaying itself and people falling for it once again. The few cool heads that read this blog can only sit down and watch this bad movie rerun and try to see how they can save their chips from the debacle. The only question is how long it will take the regime moving into some form of totalitarianism. These recent weeks have shown the path, it is just a matter of schedule and opportunities.