It is hard to underestimate the weigh of this week's events on an agonizing Maduro's headed regime. Even your prudent blogger is cautiously allowing himself to believe that yes, indeed, the regime's life should be counted in weeks... Or that at the very least a major change is just around the corner.
The week started with the reply sent to Tibisay Lucena by OAS Secretary Luis Almagro. See, Almagro got really upset about the flippancy of Tibisay Lucena, head of the CNE, Venezuela's electoral board. The woman, on orders from the regime that she is only too happy to oblige, is refusing ANY supervision to the crucial electoral process coming on December 6.
As it turns out the international community has been sending lots of hints as to the validity and fairness of the coming election. These hints have not been duly responded. Thus these hints became more and more direct, asking formally the CNE to allow real international observation, not the mere tourist tour on election day by "friendly" countries which in addition are barred from direct comment on elections. Lucena (and so many others in the regime) have become ruder and ruder, going as far as saying that people like Almagro were interfering on sovereign matters (injerencia). In short: butt off.
The latest curt and undiplomatic reply of Tibisay to Luis was just too much for him and he replied in a long 18 pages letter (PDF in Spanish here). He needed that much space because the letter reads like the longest most comprehensive indictment on Tibisay Lucena's work. Nothing was missed, from the cheapest electoral treacheries, to the lack of access by the opposition to TV, through all the material abuses of the regime, without forgetting political prisoners. Almagro even shows his clear understanding of gerrymandering as done in Venezuela. All, ALL is there. Asking for an observation is in fact a courtesy of sorts, to offer a chance for the regime to state its case.
This letter is of utmost importance because he lays at the feet of Lucena all the guilt for any negative consequence that the fraudulent elections may have. Almagro's team (and allies as he cannot have sent such a letter without the acquiescence of a few OAS members) is absolutely clear on that guilt: either Lucena has been promoting that treachery or she has remained silent in front of it. In the end all will be her direct responsibility. In short, the letter is, well, an ultimatum.
But any rational answer that the regime may have considered to Almagro's letter was taking a back seat when we learned today that two close relatives of Cilia Flores, Maduro's wife and probably the real power behind the throne, were arrested in Haiti as 800 kilos deal of cocaine traffic was busted. As the amateurs that these kids were they blurted immediately their status and their diplomatic passport. To no avail of course for the DEA personnel. Within hours all major papers in the world have been carrying the news that Maduro's close step-relatives were busted, and busted bad.
No link needed, just pick up WSJ, NYT, El Pais, Veja, etc... for details. In short, the two kids fell like amateurs trusting what seemed a rather casual contact from Honduras who was in fact a DEA undercover agent. Cilia Flores nepotism has defrayed the chronicles so there is no surprise in seeing these kids with a high sense of entitlement showing their diplomatic passport (though being nobodies), and promptly saying that they were Maduro's family, and then stating that the drug belonged to Diosdado and Tarek El Aissami (Aragua's governor, on the DEA list). These kids are going to chirp as much as asked.
One can only wonder if they were not set up from the start by a rival Venezuelan drug cartel to sink another one.
Now, this is a big problem. The only way for Cilia and Nicolas out of that mess is to condemn the kids and ask for justice to apply firmly. But we all know that this is not going to happen. So, what? We may have all sorts of invective against the US. Even a final break with closing embassies. Perhaps even a formal notification of Venezuela leaving the OAS (remember the letter at the beginning). The regime may even go as far as cancelling the election for "national security reasons since diplomatic passports are not respected".
But nobody outside of Venezuela will follow. Diplomatic immunity is no blanket immunity to begin with. And it applies only in the country where your mission is. Unless the Flores kids were attached to the Venezuelan embassy in Port au Prince there is little Venezuela can do. A crime is a crime and drug traffic is a crime everywhere in the world except in Venezuela, it seems. Though we can be sure that Haiti will stop receiving its allowances (and may have stopped to do so for a while which means they turned to the US where the bucks are).
I really do not see how the regime can wiggle out of this one. Someone will have to pay, if anything for allowing such a mess to happen, for being such a careless operator. The facts are clear. The world has served notice to the regime that its elections are rigged. The world has announced to the regime that its narco state character is not acceptable. The DEA has learned its lesson form the Carvajal fiasco in Aruba and now they are ready to pick up regime narco officials one by one, as soon as they set foot outside of Venezuela. There must be feverish meetings tonight at Miraflores Palace and major military camps.
I do not know what is going to happen, but something is going to. Since the odds of Cilia abandoning her brood are nil (never mind that they implicated Maduro's own son) we must look elsewhere. Since this is an irrational thug system anything crazy can happen. I would dare to suggest that the only way the regime can try to limit damage from this, and maybe even gain some leverage, is by forcing Maduro to resign in the coming days.
Maduro and Cilia are now beyond "damaged goods", even for their Cuban puppet masters. Forcing them to resign would have one immediate effect: suspend legislative elections where the spread is now reaching 20% against the regime in polls. In a presidential system presidential elections come first and the regime can hope that a presidential election may favor an opposition division while the anti Maduro chavista base may decide to come back to the regime once Maduro is out. Legislative elections can be held later. If the regime loses the presidency it will not matter much for chavismo in the Assembly; if it retains the presidency then it will be easier to retain a legislative majority. Or so would the strategy go. It would be easy to play around electoral agenda using primaries, etc, to postpone presidential elections all the way until February/March and legislative ones all the way until May or June.
That is what I would do if I were the regime, try to gain a few months in the hope oil prices go up again, or that opposition leadership is all in jail.
At any rate, tonight I truly feel for the first time that something has been set into motion, for better or for worse.
PS: note that 800 seem to be a magic kabalistic number for chavismo, like in the Antonini cash bag for Kirchner reelection or the 800 kilos of cocaine in Haiti.