And the ripples are just starting. (Updated)
I know, I know, some readers probably want me to start by explaining how Baduel will rid us of Chavez. Before I address that I will, as it is my bad habit, write some background so people can measure the importance of the moment. It is a good opportunity because I have not done a political update in a few weeks and less than one month from the supposed voting day, it might be my last opportunity.
I start there because it is the easiest part of this post.
Since June the opposition has the upper hand in the battles of ideas. Even the launching of the constitutional proposal reform in August 15 was unable to stir any social debate because 1) it was obvious that it was about giving Chavez more power and a presidency for life and 2) the way the discussion was directed was not conducive for chavismo to become a source of ideas: it was asked to shut up and approve the proposal.
But it was neither for the political parties nor the mass media to benefit from this chavismo mental blanking: the dissident students found with the closing of RCTV the voice to say what was at stake in Venezuela: freedom of information loss is the first step before the loss of other freedoms. Students, who thrive on information, understand that very well.
Thus was the first error of chavismo: by closing RCTV it created the first genuine popular movement against it (regardless of its size) and it broke its international image to levels it did not imagine.
Chavismo had a hard time to deal with the student ill called “dissidence” (because chavismo assumes that all in Venezuela should be behind Chavez). They even tried a shameful entrapment at the National Assembly. It blew in the face of Cilia Flores, the chair, and its acolytes and from then on chavismo could only hope for summer vacation to get rid of the students.
Unfortunately for chavismo new problems were in stock: white sugar which had been missing for six month was rejoined by brown sugar, and milk, and wheat floor, and cooking oil, etc… Oh, Venezuela did not starve but the fact of the matter is that now for your weekly shopping you have to schedule several stops. If this is understandable in time of natural catastrophe, it is not in time of peace when you are subjected to incessant propaganda from the sate that all is rosy and bright.
Soon, in the heat of summer a carry-on bag was caught in Buenos Aires with 800 000 dollars in cash. Owning such a large stash of cash in Venezuela is not legal (unless you declare them to the sate and justify its origin as from a certain date) and taking it out of the country even less legal (unless CADIVI allows you to do so). Chavez decided to silence all by throwing in the game his constitutional proposal at the very last date he could do it to get a vote before the end of the year.
If the initial proposal audacity and callousness sort of stunned us for a few days, soon enough it was clear that things were not alright for chavismo. The first evidence for that was the refusal of chavismo to discuss the proposal except in staged ceremonies that the opposition tried to crash as often as possible. This created a sense of “hiding the truth” that PODEMOS took up with craftiness to reconstruct its battered image without breaking up with some sector of the chavismo base.
By the time September rolled in the student movement started to wake up again. All the way through the end of September and early October unrest became the norm, from chavistas protesting the lack of housing or milk, to students starting again street activities. There was effervescence though no one would have expected the result of October X. That day, under the rain, the students showed that they were back in the streets in large numbers, and that the opposition electorate was starting to follow them. Almost in the same breath the main cultural and think tanks of the country opposed the new constitution, the Church went squarely against it and repression started to be felt in the street. By last November 1 march to the CNE suddenly it was clear chavismo was not holding the street anymore because, simply put, there was no popular support of Chavez in the streets as the serious opinion polls showed that less than 40% of the country might be willing to vote for the garbage that was printed by the National Assembly last Friday.
We can say today that we should have seen it coming, but we were still taken aback by the speed of it all. Chavez rally of this Sunday was a surprise to all, including to Chavez. The low attendance, the unwillingness of his people to show up or to crack down as much as they should on the opposition made Chavez go bonkers in his speech. In front of an emptying Bolivar Avenue Chavez threatened the students, forbade them to take to the streets again, demanded the security apparatus to keep order in the streets while 40 more Venezuelans were murdered by petty crime this week alone in Caracas. He also threatened Globovision, CNN and what not. In other words Chavez ordered the administration to take car of HIS interests before those of the country.
But Chavez was only seeing in front him the results of his second political error: not to extend unlimited reelection to his followers. In his mad ambition to stay in office for ever and protecting himself from any challenge, external or internal, he removed the only incentive that was left to his followers to support him. Why would Pedro Perez, two term mayor of Tucusiapón, who is out of a job next October, spend his last monies (that he could “distract “ for other uses) in bringing people to Caracas, in campaigning for Chavez? What is in it for him when his boss so grossly extend his presidential term, ensures eternal renewal while he sends him back into oblivion?
Chavez third mistake?
The third mistake of Chavez was yesterday, with his intemperate attacks on all, showing were the shots were coming from: a totalitarian past, clear for all to see and hear. Clear even for his supporters, and we can be sure that a few of them wondered what could protect them the day he turns against them.
That is in part what explains today events. First, the students undaunted have protested pretty much everywhere. More clashes, injuries reported. For all to see, for all to worry about.
But there was the Baduel bomb. That bomb was well prepared even if it had a certain sense of “sudden” to it. To begin with I have already received through two mails the link to a Baduel blog! There, besides his career you can read the whole text he read today. So there you have it, Baduel is not acting alone, even if he seemed in a rush today.
But see, for all the faults that Baduel has, and this blog has been a consistent reporter of them, there is one thing that Baduel has: he is a serious and methodical man and the chaos where chavismo is slowly sinking can only affect him. After yesterday intemperate threats of Chavez he had no choice but come out today against Chavez in the strongest terms one can imagine.
I am certainly not going to be a pro Baduel guy now, I am allergic to any military and to begin with if we are in the dire situation we are in today it is in large part due to Baduel. It is too easy to come and try to make up like that. But Baduel is onto something and he certainly senses when the wind turns, just as he sensed perfectly all events through April 11-13 2002, showing impeccable timing then. I do not know who his allies are. PODEMOS? Some within the army? Some within chavismo? But he certainly can lead and anti-SI front because probably nobody within chavismo has the credentials to do so. You just needed to see the funeral faces of the crowd around the Vice president Rodriguez press round this afternoon. Rodriguez, the cynic clown ever could not manage to bring a single smile from any of those around them except for the sutured plastic smile of Cilia Flores, and a poor quality one today.
And tonight as I type this I watched on VTV Chavez called Baduel a traitor, making Vanessa Davis, the host, wince at how easily Chavez goes from calling you a friend to able you a traitor just because you expressed your opinion. I am sure that Vanessa must have wondered when her turn will come.
Oh yes, they brought even Maniglia and Carneiro, two former defense ministers, to the front. Maniglia seemed fatter than ever, with all the signs of a major, major hangover. Carneiro was his stupid self. They even managed to contradict themselves and seemed totally pitiful in their threats. But no matter how they try to smear Baduel, the usual chavista threat against anyone they dislike from modest bloggers to 3 star generals, with Baduel it will not work. He is the one to which Chavez owes his throne and the whole country knows that. And if they push too hard against Baduel I am sure he will have some dirt to throw at them.
The new panorama
Well, I am sorry to say that my crystal ball is not working yet.
The students cannot alone unseat Chavez. As Katy explained very well we cannot ask them for the impossible. Unless we hit the street with them and march to Miraflores like in April 11 2002, nothing is going to happen. They are an important factor, an essential factor, but alone they cannot do it. Even less when the standards of Alo Ciudadano tonight were still full of people calling not to vote in an hysterical way without proposing for an instant what we should do in exchange.
The political parties? Has anyone heard of them lately? Besides some peep squeaks from Primero Justicia, that is all.
Comando de la Resistencia? Chavez has called for their head yesterday. The students were out today, we will see what the Comando will be doing in turn. It is their turn to show us that they are willing to risk their lives for us. I suspect that Hernan Escarra will do. I wonder if is infamous brother Carlos Escarra will shoot him.
Chavismo lost big today. They will waste precious campaign days countering Baduel speech. In fact, today they might have lost the vote. Why? Because Baduel was not talking to the opposition: Baduel was talking to the chavistas that do not agree with the constitutional fraud. He spoke clearly to them, implying that it was OK to vote NO, that they would not be alone and that Baduel will be their lightning road. That includes many soldiers in barracks where the strange sado-masochism of military culture makes many soldiers vote for whom their fat and corrupt generals tell them to vote for. Baduel has infinitely more ascendancy than people like Maniglia who got even fatter while his wife is in high positions within Miraflores.
Or why do you think that Chavez himself went tonight on TV, even though through a never ending phone call to Vanessa show? To lower himself in a way that a head of state should NEVER lower himself, to call a citizen a traitor without any proof, without any arrest warrant. Baduel knew how to hit deep and precise.
Baduel today has made it acceptable for many chavistas to start speaking out in a wave that might become a tsunami. Or not. Observe that in his speech he never mentioned Chavez, he never asked for his ousting. He told chavistas indirectly but very understandably that they could vote NO and yet Chavez could still enjoy five more years in office.
Now, what the opposition will do does not seem to be of any concern for Baduel. Their only option is to follow his lead, stop their stupid internecine quarrels as to vote or not to vote and go massively stop the coup d’état announced by Baduel. Some think itis a tap, that Bduel is acting with Chaevz in tandem so as to convicne peopel togo and vote and fall in thetap of the CNE. I am not so sure. This is too risky of a gamble for chavismo, and Baduel for all his fault has always been an independent spirit which is why Chavez had so much hesitation and delays before giving him his third star, way longer after mediocrities such as Carneiro got theirs.
To end this story I will just say that Baduel says in his declaration that we should all go and vote, that the constitutional change proposal is nothing less than a coup d'etat in which all branches of government are accomplices, and that will have to pay for it someday. The only thing he does not say is that he will not recognize the result of an eventual vote, but that is material for a later post. I need to discuss in more detail this recurring idea, that even if the country votes yes we have the right to refuse a document that restricts our rights without a Constitutional Assembly. Baduel hints at that, though.
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Rayma gives us a stunning cartoon. It is a pun which is much better in Spanish than in English but here it is: we have now our reasoning/rationing cards. Observe the red padlocks, the red ties. That is what chavismo wants to do to all of its followers, lock in a unique way to see the world. Impressively scary cartoon of the thugs that want to lord over us forever.