I thought already when I was writing the communism decree that the regime wants to pass would be quite something already for a single day. I even started publishing it before I finished or corrected such was my state of discombobulation. But tonight there is yet two more news, maybe more important because that decree can still be rejected by the Assembly. But apparently there are bigger fishes to fry.
President Maduro finally came tonight for his state of the Union. The speech was long, vapid, misleading when not blurting outrageous lies when vaunting the "successes" of 2015. The excitement came through the fact that he showed up when a few days ago it seemed that the rebelliousness of Diosdado Cabello with the support of some judges could carry the day and send the Assembly into nothingness. This can still happen but I have big doubts tonight about it ever happening.
The Assembly "caved in" and suspended for a while the controversial representatives and thus Cabello and the Court had no other option but to recognize the validity of the Assembly for the time being. Thus showeth up Maduro.
All fine and dandy. The speech is given in cadena, that is, simultaneous mandatory broadcast on all audio visual media. ALL. Important detail for later. The speech lasted for over two jours but I only connected to it through the end, following it on tweeter before (see my time line for highlights in Spanish or English according to assumed public, on the right side of this blog).
Maduro said nothing besides his usual assortment of insults and what not. Yet he seemed rather subdued, a little bit lost. At the end, as expected, he handed the microphone to Ramos Allup as chair of the Assembly which we would have thought would limit himself to pronounce the protocolar farewell. It was not. Ramos Allup launched himself in a big speech.
Now, why was this speech so important, well managed by the way considering the ordeal that today must have been for him today?
You need to know that just like in the US, all powers are represented (5 in Venezuela, 4 of them clapping at any inanity of Maduro; in the US no Justice would be caught dead applauding a president at SOTU!). You need to know that when Ramos Allup took over the cadena continued and the state TV, VTV,which was the only one allowed to transmit live on airwaves remained fixed on Ramos Allup the whole time, probably waiting for the order to cut off, an order that never came. It was the first time in 17 years that the country saw a cadena by someone else than a chavista stating the official line. Thus the fixation and the novelty gave more reach to Ramos Allup than he may have deserved.
Of course the response of Ramos Allup was civil but frequently mischievous in pointing out the flaws in Maduro's speech. But what made the reply to Maduro a hit were the following, in no order of importance:
- VTV and state media attack him all the time, which is OK, he does not care (I have got my mileage he said). What is not OK is that he does not have the right to reply. VTV et.al. addicts cannot pretend to ignore that anymore. The more so that the biggest vilifier of Ramos Allup and the opposotion is Diosdado Cabello show "con el mazo dando".
- He looked at the other three powers and reminded them that the only two sovereign powers, those elected by the people were the president and the Assembly and thus the other three were "derivative" powers. That is pointed at a time when one, the judicial power, is trying to unseat representatives without even the semblant of a trial (never mind of the well documented treacheries of the other two)
- He addressed the attending military top brass and explained them that the Bolivar that Chavez invented IS NOT the historical one, helping his cause with pictures and quotes. He explained that there was no room for ANY president portrait in a National Assembly. He went ahead and told them that the army was not there to do politics and he finished by making it crystal clear that neither Maduro nor him wanted a coup of any type. Reminding them, by the way, that about two weeks before April 2002 he was on record that there was a military coup in preparation against Chavez.
Now, guess who was the real target of this speech? Maduro? Guess again.
I think that what happened tonight besides revealing to the hard core chavismo what parliamentary democracy is all about, is that Ramos Allup offered his hand to Maduro to deal with the economic crisis together AND, most importantly AND, get rid of Diosdado Cabello who is managing to put everyone against himself without solving a simple problem.
It is of course a big gambit if what I write is right. After all, a reader could reply, Ramos Allup is on record to want to remove Maduro from office in the next 6 months. But the difference here, clearly expressed tonight, is that Ramos Allup does not have any particular grief against Maduro, he just wants the system gone. So, he implies, we can either prepare an honorable exit for Maduro (resigning or constitutional shortening of the term, a mere referendum would suffice) or a nastier one. The villain here, for all, is Diosdado Cabello. And you could sense that the message had been received in the rather subdued declarations Cabello gave to the press when the ceremony was over.
And since I am speculating might as well go for it. Ramos Allup offer is that if Cabello tones down or retires he will not surrender him to the DEA. As long as he remains in Venezuela in quiet retirement he can enjoy his loot (though I am sure he will be asked to return a portion of the stolen one). The offer to Maduro is that the opposition will help him taking some hard measures but the condition is that power is shared. That is, the judicial illegal nominations be reverted and the electoral board becomes truly neutral. This is the red line. Then if Maduro cannot go all the way with the necessary economic measures he can resign and retire in Venezuela, at least for a while. Or have his term shortened through a constitutional amendment that can be voted on fast, without any campaign needed. And all of this gives time tot he army to clean up its act and pick among themselves the 2-3 generals that must be sacrificed to the DEA so the other can remain free, as long as they do not leave Venezuela.
You know, I have the nagging feeling that the whole show was sort of planned by Ramos and the new Vice President Isturriz...... And probably worked out much better than the two wily coyotes ever hoped it would.