2007 was an "annus horribilis" for Chavez. So far 2008 is not bringing any improvement.
Today the "800 000 bucks bag of money" case came bag to the front scene with a vengeance. One of the Miami 4, Maionica, decided to switch his plea to "Guilty" and become a prosecution witness. He acknowledges that all the secretly recorded tapes are legitimate and that he was an agent of the Venezuelan government in order to cover up the money sent by Chavez to finance Cristina Kirchner electoral campaign.
Now a boatload of folks must be running for cover in Caracas and Buenos Aires. Watching the face of Nicolas Maduro, our failed metrobus driver turned foreign minister, accusing the US judicial system to be a farce and of submitting Maionica to unbearable pressure was a tragic poem. Not only Maduro has been watching too many bad movies, but he is unable to comprehend that Maionica as a lawyer probably understood that making a deal with the Miami prosecutor was his best way out. He will get off with a slight sentence and get a US resident visa to cooperate with the US justice. From Miami, perhaps working at some MacDonald, he will be able to wait the end of Chavez and come back to Venezuela to resume business, perhaps sooner than expected. (1)
Let's not extend on something that we have all discussed extensively in this blog and its comments. The only difference today is that the Maionica confession makes it official that Chavez is financing all sorts of illegal political activities everywhere, in amounts that make any NED donation to SUMATE a child's game. In fact, chavista paid agents like Eva Golinger must be worrying about their eventual return to the US as surely the IRS must have noticed their recent prosperity on account of dishing the US. It is Al Capone again, the bolibana version. Of course, the ridicule and bad karma/conscience that awaits these people might even be much worse than any IRS citation.
Instead let's talk about he possible consequences.
In Buenos Aires this time the Casa Rosada was keeping, at this typing, a sinister silence. Gone where the early December days when newly sworn Lady K. was calling the US judicial system garbage. Now, her government might be in jeopardy as it is gravely wounded within its first month in office. It is to be noted that for much less than the Antonini money bag affair many a post war Italian government fell.
In Venezuela Chavez has little to fear. After all the judicial system is now inexistent and certainly not about to investigate Chavez on anything. No matter what the trials of Miami in the coming months might reveal, we can be assured that the most that will happen will be a delightfully botched operation such as the one on the Danilo Anderson assassination. That one lead to nowhere, though ensuring that at least a few political opponents were put in trouble for nothing, one still in exile. No, even if there were to be a judge willing to take on Chavez, or at least his corrupt camarilla, even if the other 3 in Miami were to plead guilty now and start talking, Chavez has much worse problems than Antonini to face anyway.
Because the HMS-Chavez seems to make water from all sides these days.
First, at least for Chavez, his foreign policy front, the only aspect of his rule that he really cares about, is collapsing right and left. Certainly the Antonini affair is not going to help him at all since now many governments will have perfect excuses to monitor Venezuela agents in their country and even deny them entry. But the FARC fiasco keeps bringing more grief. After his triumphant tour of Europe, with soaring polls at home, this week Uribe received nothing less than admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and today the Secretary of State. The implication is extremely clear, and grave for Venezuela: if Chavez does not start behaving better, he is going to run into major trouble. We can hope that at least the Venezuelan armed forces will have gotten the message that any move against Colombia will find the US firmly behind them. We can hope that they will make sure that no matter how many insults Chavez keeps sending to Bogota, the situation will not go past insults. By the way, Bogota refuses to reply to Chavez which only seems to send him into further paroxysms.
But if grave matters like Colombia are besotting Chavez, other players area taking advantage to plant in his back further "banderillas". Alan Gracia in Peru is not missing a chance, timing his granting exile residency to my ex-governor Lapi. Not been on the run anymore, from Peru Lapi will be able to play a role in the coming November elections. Under a very amused Garcia watch.
But it gets worse for Chavez. His polls are now reaching levels not seen since 2002. The psychological effect of the December 2 rout (by the way, the CNE STILL HAS NOT RELEASED THE FINAL VOTING RESULTS!!!) seems to have been hit harder than expected. Coupled with an increasingly graver food shortage situation, it is not surprising that the Teflon effect of Chavez is finally over and that after 9 years in office people are finally starting to wonder if the current bad situation might not have something to do with Chavez incompetence. His or his people, same difference.
But to crown this already awful week, we were shown the latest shopping spree of Chavez to stack up the shelves in Venezuela. In a hurry, where do you get rice, black beans and cooking oil? In the Evil Empire, of course! That very same empire that Chavez constantly criticizes and accuses of preparing itself to invade us at any second. The bag handed out by PDVSA to frustrated shoppers had even an large US flag on its bag of rice! Will wonders ever cease?
The opposition needs not to do anything: these days sitting back and watching chavismo melt down is a fantastic experience.
1) Maduro also took it upon himself to criticize the Globovision journalists from being anti bolivarian, a traitor and what not, urging her to join the noble cause of bolivarianism, to unify in the defense of the fatherland. Or some such garbage. When a foreign minister lowers himself so much it becomes embarrassing even for people opposing him.