Thursday I was telling you that the latest TSJ ruling was probably a renewed attack against SUMATE. Well, it did not last long as already Iris Varela is calling for the head of Maria Corina Machado. In a way this is quite an unremarkable incident but in other ways it is deeply telling of the pebbles that bang each other inside chavista brains.
First, the event by itself. The lack of spontaneity in some chavista actions is truly remarkable: these people are becoming extremely predictable. There is a whole bunch of "law suits" pending everywhere, without enough foundation to go to trial. However these law suits do exist and can be brought to the forefront as political necessity demands. This is one of the many advantages to have the judiciary power totally submitted to the executive one, as is the case in any totalitarian or wanna-be totalitarian regime as chavismo is.
Maria Corina Machado is one such case. Although she has not done anything illegal in accepting NED funds for SUMATE, the electoral monitoring ONG, she has been prosecuted for a whole variety of reasons of dubious legality (1). For example she was at Miraflores on April 12 2002, signing an entry form, which is customary in almost any building of Venezuela for security reasons. And her signature was certainly not the only one. Yet she has been one of the few people who was attacked for that on the pretext that this was enough evidence to accuse her of plotting to overthrow Chavez when she showed up after his extremely brief overthrow......
The fact of the matter here is that Maria Corina Machado has never held public office and thus has never had a chance to steal public money. Henceforth she cannot be barred from running for office by a quick letter from Clodosvlado Ruffian, the country comptroller, which is the usual method for chavismo to ban annoying political opponents, the better since they do not even need to pocket the money to be banned from office, they just need to spend public funds in say, pothole repair instead of the original bridge repair for which the funds were originally set for.
To ban Ms. Machado from running you need her to go to trial and her to lose such trial. Admittedly in certain "legal" circumstances if she is sent to preventive jail she could be "technically" banned from running for office as no judge would dare to contest such an illegal measure least they risk suffering an Afiuni. I am not going to speculate on which argument Iris Varela and others will send Maria Corina to jail, it is useless, they will always find an excuse and international outcry will not have them back down if the political gain is big enough for them. What is to question here is what political gain do they think they would get.
Ms. Machado is running for the safest seat for the opposition. She will get at least 40% of the vote in her two head district (at least 80% if it were a single head district). If there is one district in Venezuela where chavismo cannot cheat at all it is the Baruta one of Caracas. If Ms. Machado were to be removed from the race, the opposition could place on the ballot a yellow dog and that one with the anger factor would get 85% of the vote. Thus the objective is not at all to weaken the opposition result of September by trying to rob it of an "undecided" district!
No, the idea here is that chavismo needs to remove people like Machado from the contest because such people are doing exactly what chavismo is afraid they would be doing (and which I suggested as a strategy in previous electoral posts, read the 2010 elections tag). Big political opposition stars are named in safe districts so that they can spare a lot of time to support opposition candidates in weaker districts, amen of mobilizing their own district electors for the list vote at state level. One can name a few ones like that, starting with Mendoza in a safe set too but campaigning all over Miranda and apparently with good results so far.
Ms. Machado brings something important for the opposition: her media star status, her association with the successful SUMATE past actions is one way to drop the abstention within opposition potential voters. Her role is not to gain votes from chavismo, she really cannot do that and thus such role is reserved to people like Mendoza. Her role is to make sure as many opposition supporters as possible do go and vote on September 26.
SUMATE these days is reviving some helping the opposition organize the witnesses it needs at every voting station in Venezuela considering the more than likely electoral fraud that chavismo will try. Thus it is AGAIN important for the regime to discredit SUMATE and such people even it if through people like Machado, its former head.
But I suspect that this time it will not work out because people are bored by all these constant attacks against SUMATE without anyone ever going to jail. They also notice now that jailing political opponents does not decrease inflation, does not stop power outages, does not prevent food to rot in harbors, does not protect them from street crime, does not guarantee them a job, etc, etc.... Iris Valera should remember that not all people can be fooled all the time. On her side, Ms. Machado is actually welcoming the attention.
To close this post, the other interesting aspect of this charade is to confirm once again that chavismo has lost any political creativity and can only resort to its old tricks, hence the sound of banging pebbles coming from their speeches.... Such as "inhabilitar" becoming a mere code word.
1) Just in case someone gets confused and for the occasional nincompoop chavista that might still read this blog: there are new regulations at play or in the works to stop anyone from receiving anything from a foreign government, BUT they did not exist a few years ago and thus no one from SUMATE (or other ONG) can be sued retroactively for that. Or else you would be willing to give up even the pretense of justice.