Those of us who are old enough (1) to remember the old silent, black and white Comedy Capers must be remembering them as they look at the fight between Spain and Venezuela over the alleged ETA support by the folks of Chavez's regime. Silent because nobody dares to mention the real issue behind the Spanish vacillation about a case which is rather crystal clear: big Spanish bucks.
The fact of the matter is that the Socialist Government of Spain, who should have known better, thought that it could calm down Chavez, step in and pick up all sorts of juicy contracts left behind by people that had enough of chavista extortion. As a result some Spanish interests flourished, from Telefonica through Movistar which is the main wireless system in Venezuela, to BBVA which controls Banco Provincial one of the largest Venezuelan banks. Amen of REPSOL digging for oil and other little contracts including a very suspicious major repair for the Caracas Subway taken away from the French original builders, where apparently the Spanish alleged contractor would not have the skills to do the job (I know that from a perfectly reliable source).
Why did the Spaniards thought they could get away with it all? Two reasons, a semi racist one and the PSF card. Let's face it, for too many Spaniards we are mere "sudacas" and when they see a clown like Chavez who has no problem letting his personnel bribe and split bribes with whomever crosses their path, well, they are comforted in their sudaca evaluation (2). The surprise here is that some in Spain's PSOE are equally prejudiced as some of the PP on this respect.
The PSF card is really Moratinos (3). The foreign minister of Spain seems to come from the left wing or the PSOE and is personal friend with major apologists of the regime such as Ignacio Ramonet of the infamous Monde Diplomatic, little bit more than a propaganda joint for Chavez and the anti globalization movement. It seems that Moratinos is the architect of the Spain Venezuela "rapprochement" something that might not be shared by all in the PSOE government such as Zaptero and his defense minister, if we base ourselves in their initial declarations. Moratinos probably suffers the Lula syndrome too, to be forced into respectability for his career and thus live vicariously the "good revolution" through Chavez. The image of Moratinos in Venezuela informed circles is very negative and we call him Desatinos (misjudgments). In short he is sold out, and maybe for actual cold cash for all that we know; or a least we hope for him because he is going to pay the price for sponsoring a regime that so openly violates Human Rights and protects corruption, amen of ETA terrorists if judge Velasco is proven right.
Thus we can explain why even the famous "¡Por que no te callas!" of King Juan Carlos was eventually papered over with Chavez visiting him in his summer retreat of the Baleares. Business is business and Spain needs all the cold cash it can get from its Venezuelan properties because they pay taxes in Spain and there is a welfare state to support. It seems that this time around the Zapatero government is trying, hoping, to put some form of lid on the issue, at least until after the next Spanish elections due in less than two years. Justice is hoped to be slow enough to emit its verdict after the elections, no? And this would explain all the different explanations as to whether Spain asked Venezuela for an explanation.
Unfortunately it might not work out this time around.
The issue here is way more important than when the King stared down Chavez. We are talking terrorism here. The fact that the Chavez response was so vehement can only mean one thing: there are important figures in the regime at risk with that Spanish investigation. If not why not simply emit a statement like "Gee! You think so? Do not worry, we will help you investigate all what you want! But we are afraid you will be very disappointed..." The best Zapatero and Moratinos and Chavez can hope is to slow down investigations as much as possible until both governments are back in office, post election. Then, well, we will both find a convenient scapegoat.
That is were the Spanish opposition comes in. The PP knows a good deal when it sees one. Not to mention that it is still bitter that the PSOE margin of victory in 2004 was due in large part to the mishandling of the Aznar government after the Madrid bombings, trying to put the blame on, guess who, ETA!
It is true that the PP needs to manage the issue with care to make sure that it is not seen as the one putting Spaniards jobs and income at stake, but they have a wonderful tool to torture the PSOE administration until next election, or next criminal revelation.
There is one thing that works in the PP favor here: they would have never been blindsided by Chavez the way Moratinos or Zapatero did. The PP knows very well that any Spanish investment in Venezuela is at risk as long as a mercurial Chavez is in charge. After all, he did take the Banco de Santander assets already. Who is to stop him to take over Movistar when CANTV starts failing badly? The PP knows that nobody, not even sleazy Moratinos can prevent a Chavez temper tantrum to cost Spain a fortune. Moratinos is simply delusional, something that many ex-chavistas would have been glad to let him know if he had bothered talking to them. In fact a case should be made that Moratinos and Zapatero should have known better about chavismo unreliable commitments: the agreement brokered by Zapatero himself to compensate the land seizure of many Spaniard immigrants in Venezuela seems to have gone nowhere for many of the victims as the agreed compensation is not payed, or partially only while Spain is looking elswhere(4). For the big bucks of REPSOL?
The PP is more than justified in putting pressure on the PSOE if anything to underline its sloppiness. We must see whether the owners of Telefonica, BBV and REPSOL decide to finance the PP campaign. Though this might not be much of an issue as the PSOE is sliding in the polls on its own. If the PP plays its cards right it could be exempted of any guilt the day that Chavez will unfailingly start seizing Spanish companies as the needs money.
I think that for the good of the PSOE Moratinos should seriously think about quitting before he makes things worse for them. The more so as Spain is holding this semester the European presidency (5).
1) not that I am dating myself, but Venezuelan TV passed on Saturday and Sunday cartoon hour the occasional old reel from the Comedy Capers, from Chaplin to Little Rascals, as late as the 70ies.
2) sudaca comes form a contraction of sudamericano. It is a very pejorative term in Spain, like bougnoule is in France or wetback in the US.
3) PSF is our own Venezuelan pejorative term for those from the left of center who love Chavez unconditionally. A latest example is Sean Penn who says that anyone who calls Chavez a dictator should be sent to jail.
4) Some of these victims are in Yaracuy and I know of their plight and betrayal.
5) Moratinos and Zapatero have also been for some unspeakable reasons the main enablers of the Castro brothers.