Wednesday, May 28, 2003

May 28, 2003

After months of “negotiations” last week an agreement was announced between the Chavez administration and the opposition representatives at “La Mesa de Negociación y Acuerdos”. This negotiation table was set up last October by an agreement between Chavez and the OAS, under the mediation of its General Secretary, Cesar Gaviria, ex-president of Colombia.

Qualifying the negotiating table as ineffectual is mild. Not seeing Gaviria as weak is difficult. The table could not avoid the general strike of December and if anything was a source of rumors such as an imminent resignation of Chavez during the first days of the strike. But Chavez mettle is not one that the democratic mind understands and basically the opposition dangled at the table through weeks of strike until eventually Chavez stubbornness prevailed, at the cost of a devastating crisis.

The negotiations then were for an anticipated electoral solution. After the strike the negotiations did not really made much sense anymore since the constitutional provision for a recall election in August became more of a reality. What was left was to negotiate a modus operandi on how to face the electoral process. Even that was too much to stomach for Chavez. Yet, he could not come outright and kick out a rather complacent Gaviria. Complacent but no fool, Gaviria seems to know what type of individual is Chavez, but Gaviria does not want to flounder on the Venezuelan problem when he has bigger aspirations. In his eyes probably he feels obligated to mediate a solution to a problem that Venezuelans had coming from their lack of political seriousness. He is not necessarily wrong in this appreciation.

With the South American Cuzco summit coming, the first big event for Chavez since the strike, it became clear to him that he had to do something. Sensing that the opposition had recovered quite a lot of credibility since the April 2002 coup attempt, and considering perhaps that his extensive counter attack was going well according his plans he decided to sign an agreement. Of course the news broke while Chavez was in Cuzco, maximizing the effect and improving his standing there, or at least relaxing the atmosphere some.

I must confess that I have only glanced through the agreement. No matter its contents, one of the signing parts, the one with the guns, has had no qualms in repeatedly violating the constitution. Surely a casual agreement would not be a hindrance. I even allowed myself to wonder if it was worthwhile signing it. However it should be signed for three simple reasons: 1) no agreement can guarantee an election; 2) not signing it could damage more the opposition than Chavez, which is quite apparent from the glee that the administration showed when some within the opposition derided the agreement; and 3) it will be cosigned by Gaviria for the OAS, and the Carter foundation with he PNUD for the UN. If anything, it will compromise morally these international organizations which until now could not do anything about the Venezuelan crisis. Well, they probably will not be able to do much but at least now they will be able to condemn Chavez if he does not abide by the rather light obligations of the agreement

The opposition slowly, and grudgingly for some, is rallying to the agreement realizing that it is the best thing it can get at this point towards the electoral goal. The agreement will be signed tomorrow. Perhaps. Chavez might actually be sorry, since the agreement could slow down some of his intended “reforms” to block the recall election. However, Gaviria will definitively be happy when he "passes the buck".

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