Sunday, January 16, 2011

Something in tattered sheep clothing

no more clapping: the opposition is back
It is difficult to make sense of Chavez show yesterday.  I mean, it is often difficult to dig though the alluvial mass of Chavez speeches to figure out what he really means to say: swallowed in a sea of anecdotes from his life, drowned in an abundance of invectives against his foes, real or imaginary, swamped with irrelevant facts, or those you know are untrue, you never quite know how to manage your political compass.

But yesterday was something else.

Chavez is mandated by the Constitution to appear in front of the National Assembly once a year to offer his account of achievements.  That he has done stuff is certain, that some are actual achievements is another thing.  But at least for the last 5 years he had a submissive assembly that applauded til' their hands bled to any silly data or joke he uttered during a speech that lasted at the very least 4 hours.  In cadena of course, that is ALL radio and TV in Venezuela had to transmit the simultaneous broadcast of someone behaving very unpresidentially.

Now this year was different.  See, there would be sitting in front of him 67 people that would not applaud at all.  In an institutional way they may politely clap as he entered the half moon of the Assembly but that would be all.  On the other side, the government in full and the 98 chavistas would have to clap even harder to compensate.  The expectations were great, considering that also the other "powers" of the state must attend as well as diplomatic representations and "notable" figures.  Remember, in previous presentations we even got an endorsement of the Colombian FARC with the consequences we all know.

First, Chavez spoke for a bout 7 hours.  Needless to say that I did not have the stamina to listen to it, plugging in for a few minutes here and there.  But that was enough to get the tone, the more so that one of my plug-in was when Chavez explained vehemently that he was not a communist and that private enterprise had a bright future with him....  Yes, I know, I am still looking under the chairs trying to find my jaw.

And yet there were other noteworthy announcements behind the sea of usual rhetoric and worn out cliches.  For example Chavez said that he would return the enabling law by May, that is, using it for only 6 months of the allowed eighteen.  He said that the laws belonged, after all, for the assembly to discuss, and that the opposition was welcome back for that....  even VTV felt compelled to publish this call to the opposition and show the above picture in their site.

What gives?  Well, first you would be a fool to take Chavez words for real intentions.  In ten years we are more than used to his two steps forward one back strategy.  Second, the enabling law will be valid for another 5 months so he can do all the damage he needs to do before returning it and pretend to be a democrat.

And this is the key because his arrogance yesterday was tempered by the reality that the enabling laws and the other laws voted last December are felt in Venezuela and outside as coup, as a naked power grab, and an undeserved one to boot.  There have been huge floods in Colombia, there are now huge floods in Brazil and we do not hear of a single enabling law over there.  At home, it is clear that many of he laws passed last December were those expressly forbidden to the government in 2007 when it tried to get them through a constitutional reform.  Chavez has pollsters and he knows that his numbers have been going on downhill since last September and that this Christmas season was the saddest in years.  Why?  not really because of the lack of money, after all there was at least the very minimum of hallaca and partying, more because the understanding that chavismo was never going to get enough and people simply lost interest for partying, and henceforth interest for Chavez.

Thus it is time for damage control and yesterday, even though Chavez repeated his usual cliches, he had at least to pretend to make a few concessions.  In a way it worked as many foreign correspondents welcomed the announcement that in May the enabling law will be over.  But none of them seems to worry about what he will do in the meantime.  And to Chavez distress now there is a credible opposition that demands to Chavez to prove his "good" intentions of yesterday by revoking the enabling law right now, with the unquestionable argument that the opposition will gladly vote all the necessary and reasonable laws to deal with the emergency, without the need for an enabling law.

Maybe Chavez can still play the silly portion of the foreign press but it is clear that the opposition representatives that endured the 7 hours speech of yesterday are not going to be so easily assuaged.  Making his new dictatorship work is not going to be as easy as he thought and surely news from Tunisa were not encouraging.  The sheep clothes worn yesterday were not very effective at concealing the reality.


  1. "In a way it worked as many foreign correspondents welcomed the announcement that in May the enabling law will be over. But none of them seems to worry about what he will do in the meantime."

    Well Daniel, I think we are expecting too much from the foreign press. They report every Chavez utterance, that's what they have to do. We can't expect people from abroad who arrive in the country with a superficial, at best, knowledge of our history, to be able to interpret accurately the nuances of our reality. For let us not forget, all them come with their own ideological baggage, and more than a few are actually infatuated with Chavez, and having the time of their lives in Venezuela. So not everything is bad for them.

    On the other hand, listening to bits of his speech, I couldn't help but interpret it as a withdrawal of sorts. Chavez knows that right now he is in the lower part of the chinchorro, and that to regain support he's going to have to increase spending massively, as he did in 03 and 04 right before the referendum. I think the opposition does have the opportunity of driving the foreign media agenda, simply by exercising their rights within Congress, and raise issues which will have to be reported. Exposing Chavez is sooo easy, it doesn't take a particularly gifted person to do it these days. What they have to do is counter the official propaganda with facts. That should do.

    Internally, it's a different thing, por aquello de internet no sube cerro, educational levels, etc. But those living in cerros know better than anyone of us, that Chavez is cambur y peo.

  2. Chavez said that he would return the enabling law by May, that is, using it for only 6 months of the allowed eighteen.

    How does that work? Does he actually return it, stomp on it, burn it or what? There may be some damage not yet done and there may even be some left undone by May. What's the likelihood that if, despite Chavez' universally acknowledged competence, he decides that he neglected something, he will just say "whoops" and ask the assembly to take care of it for him?

  3. First, Chavez spoke for a bout 7 hours.

    Sweeeeeeet Jeeeebus! Are you serious? If so, behold, the true heir of The Beard.

  4. Roger8:31 PM

    Its always hard to second guess Chavez especialy if your trying to be logical.My guess is that he plans to blame the opposition with their 40% Majority for all the failures.

  5. I agree with Alek about the bias in the foreign press.

    These tricks are to hold on to his worldwide " lefty democratic" support while remaining the dictator that he is, simply because even the slowest of us can see that people both in and out of Venezuela are bound to their packaged ideologies such that when one mentions' help the poor' , people will believe, instead of taking a realistic look .

    He is giving ammunition to his supporters by this action so that they can argue " why would a dictator ever give his legally obtained power voluntarily back to Congress? The man is obviously a democrat !"

    Of course first he steals a big chunk and then he magnanimously offers a pitiful piece back to the opposition, though never giving what is their due....but the blind never notice that part.

    The jury is still out on whether these tricks are going to work for him or whether the opposition's representatives in Congress will be able to expose this for what it is.My guess is that the opposition will have a hard time being heard because the impact of the opposition's complaints will be dampered by the press.Inside of Venezuela the press is constrained and intimidated by the government, and outside it tends to sympathize subtly with Chavez.

    Until the manipulation of the press is fully exposed and the lack of morality of ideologues is made clear to most, we will continue to live with this problem, everyday growing in impact.

  6. Like to add that the BBC for example, always presents the government position first in a very respectful and extensive way, then most of the article is dedicated to the government position.They will add a few statements from the opposition but only in the context as complaints against the government." Critics say" hahaha

    This in turn makes the opposition look like whiners, and not like fighters for democracy.

    Just compare this with the coverage they give African dictators.

  7. Anonymous1:46 AM

    Hoy en Aló Venezuela, el Presidente de la FCU de la LUZ dijo que lo de ayer fué el Carnaval adelantado, porque llegaron disfrazados de ovejitas. Tiene razón me pareció lo mismo, no oi ninguna cuenta pero muchos cuentos. La Maga Lee

  8. Is there a law in Venezuela that requires the members of the National Assembly to sit through any speech made by the president, no matter how long it is?

    What Chavez showed yesterday, to me, is that he can force the oppo to sit through any amount of inane BS for any amount of time.

    If it were me, I would have given him one hour, maybe one and a half, then I would have gotten up and politely left the room.

  9. Dan

    Chavez, believes it or not, would have to ask the assembly to annul the enabling law as of a given date.

  10. Island Canuck12:36 PM

    First of all hasn't Chavez given himself VETO power. He'll just veto the enabling law once he's tired of it. :-)

    If I had been an oppo deputy I would not have given him more than 1 hour before leaving.

  11. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Brevity is the soul of wit.

    Yet communist S. American dictators love to speak for endless hours.

    Which should tell you something.

    It looks like there is a secret competition between Chavez and Fidel as to who can say less in more time.

    And S. Americans wonder why the world laughs at them.

    Hugo is The Three Stooges wrapped into a single bag.

  12. Daniel,

    Cynic that I am, methinks he has not yet done that and has no intention of doing it. Will he? Oh come on; make a wild guess.

  13. Juan Cristobal9:25 PM

    Chavez is terrified because his numbers are in the tank. See the latest tweets from Consultores 21...

  14. Anonymous4:41 AM

    I feel sorry for the Venzuelan people. They just showed some of Chavez's State of the Union speech here on CSPAN. What an idiot!!! He showed some graphs in note book, a paper note book that proves what a great president he is. Then he spoke for about 5 minutes about how he shouldn't speak too much longer because there's some game on at 8:30 and he doesn't want people to say Chavez that speaks too much. For 7 hours he talked!! He really must have control (surpression)over the people there because he should of been kicked out of office a long time ago.

  15. Could they go to the toilets?

  16. Hey, maybe Insulza did something good for Venezuela after all! OK, as Daniel, notes, it wasn't really a big thing... Still, I am surprised that he came out solidly against the enabling law, and that may well have been a factor here. But then, we probably can't expect anything beyond that in the future.


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