Saturday, August 02, 2003

Why is Chavez scared
August 1, 2003

If one watches Venezuelan television these days one cannot fail but notice that Chavez is quite often on “cadenas”. Every two or three days we are treated to a show, up to two hours long, where Chavez blasts the opposition on every TV and radio, simultaneously. If he is not accusing the opposition of “golpistas” he is advertising the “successes” of the Bolivarian Revolution. He even had set a special studio with several fancy special TV plasma screens which he uses to link during the show to several places in the country where some local chavista authority extols the good works. If he is travelling, there are the usual suspects nattily coifed with the “de rigueur” red beret, mostly on the darker skin shade side of Venezuelan population, appropriately cheering on cue. If one wonders whether this is an electoral meeting one would not be very far from the truth.

Since Chavez went on the counter offensive after the general strike, assuming he ever left the offensive, his style has become a never ending electoral campaign. While of course claiming that the Revocatorio will never take place. And if it ever took place, well, he is going to win anyway. But these things are for future installments in these series. What interests us today is to understand Chavez attitude, why is he already on an electoral rampage while no election has been officially called, so far.

Of course, if there is a recall election Chavez will be out of a job. Financially I am sure he has no worries. So it would seem that he should be OK. Something like Grey Davis the Californian Governor that is fighting the normal political battle for his recall election. Resemblance stops there. Actually losing his job per se is probably the very least of Chavez concerns these days. Chavez in fact leads a rather inept and corrupt regime, with probably some blood on its hand. And he is the wanna-be heir to Fidel Castro, his most treasured dream. Let’s examine briefly what it all means.


The first important observation is that most people in Chavez’s entourage have risen to power thanks to Chavez. Most of the few players from past administrations, that might or might not have enjoyed direct access to power then, have long left the chavista ship. Counted are chavistas today that have been at least the mayor of an important town, or yielded significant power in the old Congress. As it was to be expected, these long suffering low ranking politicos seem to have been blinded by the glory and unable to resist the temptations that come to those in power. Tales of corruption abound and unfortunately it is rather easy to observe the change in life style of some of them.

The inner circle of Chavez is reinforced by some from the Army. There, Chavez has managed his discretionary attributes well when promoting to the top officials that would not have normally made the cut. The newly, and perhaps surprised, beneficiaries have for main quality their vague or precise loyalty to the “Revolution and its leader”. And the governmental hallways abound of officers “borrowed” by the public administration to an extent not seen outside of what is expected for a military dictatorship administration.

All of these people have something in common: they know that they will follow very closely in the steps of Chavez’s departure and return into oblivion for ever, a golden oblivion for some perhaps but this is another story. Some also know that they will face the courts. Times have changed and today’s opposition is less likely to be as lenient as it was traditionally done in the past.

From this it is rather simple to suspect that they are putting lots of pressure on Chavez to resist.


Chavez has committed one big mistake, he has been promoting himself as the natural leader for the downtrodden masses in South America. Indeed he has made some inroads there, but so has Castro tried, and for longer. And Castro cannot brag much on regimes that went totally the way Cuba has gone.

This initial self delusion has not improved and if anything he sees himself more than ever as the heir of the aging Castro. After all he thinks of himself as an avatar of Simon Bolivar, although he is coyer on that these days.

Chavez has hosted or participated in countless of “meetings and forums” that bring together fringe leaders from all around the world. There he sells himself effectively to some European anti-globalization activists. They flatter him to gain influence, he likes flattery.

What is the worse that could happen to such a self promoting politician? To lose an election. That would show the world he cannot hold popular support with his policies. His image would be killed the moment he loses the recall election. Sure, he still would be invited to all these “forums”, and what would vex him most is not that he would have to pay his way now, but that he would be just another guest.

It is my belief that this last reason is the most likely to keep him up at night plotting ways to sabotage the referendum vote. In a normal system he could lose the recall election, and within Venezuela he could still aspire to a political career. But Venezuela has become too small for his ego. He can only be president of Venezuela while he looks for bigger prizes. Like Castro, he cannot be bothered with fair elections in Venezuela.

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