Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The (comic?) stage is set

Tuesday August 19 2003, at 11 PM

Tomorrow Chavez will have legally ½ of his term plus one day in office. Legally the opposition may now submit the signatures collected on February 2 and ask for a recall election.

Long gone are the days were during the heat of the December-January general strike Chavez was claiming high to heavens that the opposition should wait for August. Until Carter took him at his word. Now he is trying very hard to avoid this hour of reckoning. So how do we find the two sides, tonight at 11 PM?


The day opened with the newspapers, in particular El Universal, giving an extensive recount on how the “bad” Chavez administration led him to face such an unpleasantness. Indeed, what record can he run on? True, a careful observer could pick up a few positive points, but they are so far outweighed by the economic disaster, the lack of direction, the rampant corruption, that the real question should be “how come Chavez is still in office”.

During the day the opposition has been arguing with the authorities about the preparations for tomorrow’s multiple march from 6 points in Caracas, a march that will converge on Avenida Libertador. But it is a cheerful and confident opposition that senses that once again it is managing the agenda. Yes, most serious spokespeople insist that tomorrow is the official start of the race and that we are far from the goal, but it is a good race, a race that we can win.

TV talk shows are witness of this newly found optimism. For example, RCTV did show excerpts of the video Tiempo de Marchas (see one week ago). It also interviewed a young lawyer who is a musician on his spare time and who composed one of the tunes that was a main hit in the general strikes marches. Now he has a new one, probably promised to a great success from what I could hear. Indeed, one of the striking successes of the anti-Chavez gang is that they seem to hold to all the “political” creativity. Not to mention having transformed the Venezuelan flag as a symbol of freedom against Chavez, as seen on marches. Unbelievable!

The other activity for the day was to prepare for tonight rallies on main cities, with fireworks at midnight. I doubt much that San Felipe will be awake past 11 PM, but between 8 and 9 PM I did hear some activity in the streets, some firework, and whistles with the syncopated one-long-three-shorts that is the hallmark of the opposition, based on the rhythm of the “Ni un paso atras” (not a step back). As far as I could tell tonight on TV, Caracas had at least already two significant night rallies. We will see later.


Let’s start with the beloved great leader. He seems to have decided to weather tomorrow storm by going out on an unnecessary trip to Argentina. Unnecessary because it is a private trip, no official business, with a discreet meeting with Kirchener. That is all that was discreet.

Chavez started his long weekend outing by calling for a South American debt referendum. While of course ignoring his own recall election. No other leader picked the ball at the Paraguay meeting. Incidentally all leaders present at the new Paraguayan president inauguration did sign an anti terrorist document for South America and in support of Colombia. Chavez was the odd man out, on some of the lamest excuses that diplomacy is able to provide.

Fresh from this bust, he went to Buenos Aires to do his weekly live talk show for over two hours, except that this time the Venezuelan tax payer will have to add the expenses of the satellite link. But who’s counting….

I am not sure what he did yesterday, but today, still in Buenos Aires he called for a meeting. Obligingly some of the Argentine left sent their militants to provide for a night background. It is interesting how Chavez meetings are now at night so the cameras cannot show really the extension of the crowds. The speech was slightly more anti neo liberal than usual, but that is OK in Buenos Aires. However, Chavez did link his speech to the satellite again, and made the speech yet another long “cadena” on all Venezuelan networks and radio stations. While calling the media, that he rackets at will with his cadenas, whores for colluding with the opposition in their message. What would the state TV be?

But his administration was not idle. While they refused to give some of the march permits for tomorrow alleging that Avenida Libertador cannot be blocked as too much traffic goes by, they did hijack for the whole week the largest Caracas avenue, Avenida Bolivar. Yesterday not much happened while they were setting up tent. Today they put a “popular market” and an expo from each ministry to show the “works” of Chavez rule. More activities will follow until the big rally Saturday (at night?) to “celebrate the rule of Chavez. Meanwhile if you need to drive in the area, tough luck for the whole week.

Late this evening, the ministry of defense did a cadena to scare people away by saying that “any violence will be the only judicial responsibility of the opposition” since apparently they did not offer a good marching plan. Yes, indeed, the organizers experience in a dozen of marches containing a few thousand hundred of people is still not good enough to convince the authorities.

And the state TV talk shows were just perfect! A text book case of twisting news, and facts by any “expert” they could bring. Now, if they feel so strong about their work, why that exasperate desire to block everything, to look for any stage away from Venezuela? Why the sudden intensity in the media counter attack?

It is just midnight. I did hear a few fireworks in San Felipe, and the TV blares the Caracas party feel. The midnight rally of Altamira has a very good turn out, maybe 50 000 people. At midnight.

We will see how long the anti Chavez camp will be able to keep their high spirits in the upcoming tough weeks.

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