Monday, September 01, 2008

No light in the attic: unenlightened chavismo and a lightless Venezuela

The news today is yet again another massive blackout in Venezuela. It is not clear how much of the country was cut off as amazingly government seems to be clueless. But I can say that San Felipe was more than 3 hours without electricity, some areas of Caracas are still not back up on the grid and Valencia was wiped out, hospitals only starting to get back some service around 5 PM. Maybe Gustav was bearing down on Louisiana but hurricane Hugo keeps in its never ending quest to destroy Venezuela.

Though I felt for those trapped in Caracas overburdened subway today, this massive blackout was a good opportunity to think about a few things and get back into posting mood. There was this very nice article by Roger Santodomingo this morning in Tal Cual, which I could read before the computers went out (here, for those without a subscription). The topic was the censorship that Maripili Hernandez imposes at Canal I. Some background is needed.

Maripili Hernandez is one of those chavistas that are presentable. She can say several full sentences in a row without being improper, something that Chavez himself is unable to do. She does have some knowledge of the world and some professional dedication, though in her case it does not seem to be very productive. She was on board with Chavez from the start but somehow never quite made it up to the inner circle. Or was dropped form it. Whatever. She was briefly foreign minister for North America, about the only chavista that could be sent there. On many an occasion I had the opportunity to expose her in this blog, in particular in such a stellar moment as her patriotic histrionics. Gustavo Coronel has also told her down.

But apparently she did something improper as she is the only chavista of some weight that was also inhabilitada by Clodosvaldo, that is, barred from seeking political office without a trial. But that is not big deal for her: she obviously is not into electoral politics and besides now she has her own TV network, Canal I.

Canal I was inaugurated over a year ago by one of those chavista groups that made millions in half a decade of chavista rule (William Ruperti is the face). It is meant to be the counter weight of Globovision but, well, it is having trouble as it is just too obviously pro Chavez, not to mention far from the professional standards of Globovision or even Venevision (heck, not even a working web page!). I did try to watch it a few times, hoping that perhaps I would get a more palatable point of view of chavismo ideas. But quickly I realized that I was better off reading directly Aporrea or watching Alo Presidente on Sundays.

At any rate, Ruperti did hire Maripili to direct the new network. That was a gamble form the start as Maripili presided over the downgrading of VTV early in Chavez term. I think, in her discharge, that she did not agree with the 24/24 propaganda nature of VTV and found a way out. But her tenure was considered a failure and her jobs hereafter were in the great chavista tradition of mediocrity and incompetence. Then again, if Ruperti did not want to get into trouble with Canal I, hiring Maripli was a good move I suppose.

So Roger Santodomingo narrates in his article today how Maripili fired one of her journalists, Mairim Unamo, because she wanted to do a piece on the Antonini trial starting in Miami this week, as Miguel is following closely. That is right, Maripili Hernandez, once a defender of free speech is now your ordinary censor once her political side is threatened by an exploding scandal which revelations would undo any normal government. It will not undo this one because well, there is justice in the US but not in Venezuela.

This poses once again several questions. One, is what are chavistas thinking? How long can they pretend that what is happening in Miami is just a media conspiracy? That the 800 000 USD bag did not exist, or was just Antonini pocket money for his Argentina vacation? There is a point where you can legitimately start wondering about the mental capacity of these people such as Maripili who in a previous life had still some self respect. Now, the more the ship sinks the more willing they are to sink with it it, or so it seems.

But the answer to this first question can come from the second question: what is their concept of democracy? We have already seen that often: for chavista hard core defenders the only democratic credential chavismo, and Chavez, need is to win elections. The more often they win them, the more they are allowed to trample minority rights. That when they were a minority their rights were not that trampled, witness of it that eventually they came to power, does not seem to cross their feeble minds.

But what can you expect from true understudies like Maripli when her real boss this week attacked the opposition once again in a totally undemocratic way? Apparently Chavez was sore because the opposition is collecting signatures to protest the 26 laws from the enabling law and to send that to the OAS (I signed, by the way, did you?). Why is the opposition sending that to the OAS? Because there is no justice in Venezuela and because the High Court already approved some of these laws BEFORE they were known by the public in general, or a legitimate debate took place in the country.

So a very miffed Chavez replied to the folks gathering the petition that they were ridiculous and that what he should do is to ask for a new enabling law and stick to them 26 more decree laws. That is right, he just spoke like the neighborhood thug he is ("clavarle", with a sexual connotation), imposing his will and only interested in finding ways to screw his opponents and control his turf. HIS, is the operative word here. Not an ounce of democratic talent here. So, why should we expect democratic talent from Maripili?

But they are not making good progress. For all the efforts to ignore the Maletin, for all the self-censorship we saw for too long in the Venezuelan media (with the notable exception of Globovision and some bloggers who never forgot the issue), we are seeing again articles on the coming up trial making it to the front pages. Maripili might have fired Mairim but it might not be enough to save some of her superiors. Then again, we could ask a third question: is she able to understand what is going on in the country? I doubt it, the light in those attics was shuffled long before the country went blank today.

-The end-

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