Sunday, May 22, 2005

Castro and Chavez: the road to Cubazuela is full of potholes

One thing that can be said for autocrats and dictators: they give us frequent opportunities to see what they are really about. This week is no exception as Castro is trying to do damage control big time as the opposition, in spite of some quacks, is managing to hold its most important public event in years, if not decades. Meanwhile, the wanna-be autocrat in Venezuela shows that still he is miles behind his mentor in managing such events.

Cuba: a dissident encounter

Castro has had a spat with the European Union when he shot a few guys without the pretense of a fair trial, not to mention all what he did to the guys of Proyecto Varela. But Zapatero became Spain Prime Minister, and irrepressibly misguided by his foreign secretary Moratinos, has tried to "bring back Cuba" into the concert of Nations. Well, the budding opposition to Castro in Cuba, as weak as it might be, has tried to mounts a serious assembly to discuss the future of Cuba (1). Castro, as expected, has tried to put obstacles all along the way, until eventually he could not fake it anymore and started kicking out European parliamentarians coming to observe the meeting. Europe is not amused (and Rodriguez Zapatero looks once again as a fool). The Guardian is not amused. Le Monde is not amused. And I am not looking at the press more to the right who must be hilarious.

In French we say "Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop", that is, try to wash Castro's face, he'll roll in dirt at the first opportunity. Castro cannot help it, he cannot afford a single chink in the Gulag he presides and he knows it. That is why accommodating policies like the ones tried by Zapatero will always fail because people like Zapatero never understand the mettle of the Castros of this world; just as Chamberlain was coming back from Munich in 1938 with "peace in our time", one of the most famous 'last words' in history.

But if Zapatero thinks tonight that his Cuban misadventure (will he fire Moratinos finally?) is bad enough, he has another one coming from Chavez, Castro's Mini Me.

Chavez new diplomatic faux-pas

Chavez has been having a few rough days. Be it from PDVSA troubles who forced him after months of denial to admit some problems in PDVSA, (and yet a new promise of Ramirez who finally started to give some numbers, non audited of course, 2 & 3) to the Tascon list that will not go away, he thought that with the Posada Carriles thing he might be unto something good. Alas! It does not seem to stir much passion in Venezuela. The official ABN could only give us a rather discrete picture of the event in Plaza Bolivar yesterday. The red shirts and the enthusiasm were there but not the crowds. In despair Maduro of the National Assembly promised for next week a big march.

Chavez and Maduro should look over at Havana to learn how things are done as Castro last Tuesday sent people to the streets in a real sea of red shirts to demand the US sends Posada Carriles out of the US.

But in a sign that Chavez is rather stressed these days, he blurted a few things on Aznar that makes one wonders what is really going in the hallways of power and diplomacy. Apparently when Aznar and Chavez met a few years ago, Aznar tried clumsily tried to lure Chavez into the Western orbit, even suggesting that Chavez should not join the losers of Africa. And Chavez goes on stating that Hitler comes short of Aznar.

Let's assume for the sake of the argument that indeed Aznar has said a few improper things about his less favored brethren of the world, words probably magnified by Chavez anyway, as we might assume that if these words were that awful Chavez would have said something at the time, as it was his duty to expose such a sleazy head of state. No? (4) So, even if Aznar was so gross, it is still an error for Chavez to repeat these words so late in the game. Basically he shuts down any efficiency in Venezuelan foreign policy as from now on nobody is going to speak freely with Chavez, too afraid that this loud mouth will babble away his own issues and misunderstandings.

Certainly the rebound of the comments on Aznar are going to bring trouble to Zapatero, which he deserves anyway. This one will more than likely become a more demanding ally as he needs to refurbish his fast tarnishing image. But this is not all. As editorials keep piling up, one can expect Chavez irate actions to multiply. And to add insult to injury, in spite of all the character assassination campaign against SUMATE's Maria Corina Machado, this one has been invited to an OAS meeting to talk about Venezuela's electoral problems. It is quite impressive that all the good will effect that Chavez managed to get from a fraudulent referendum has been whittled away so fast, all for his loud mouth, his disregard for other people business.

Alo Presidente should be interesting to watch tomorrow....


1)Babalu blog offers a coverage of events in Cuba and Miami.

2)One cannot fail to observe that as Ramirez claims that in 6 months rivers of oil will be flowing from Venezuela, finally, the government will still be asking OPEC cuts. I leave the interpretation of the incongruities of Ramirez speech to the reader.

3)Even as Ramirez finally was forced to give some numbers, new reports about the deficient maintenance of the oil industry share of PDVSA arrive. More to explain, I suppose.

4) It is not idle to remind Chavez that Aznar withdrew from a third term that he probably would have won without trouble while Chavez freely thinks of himself to be so indispensable that 2021 is his avowed goal to remain in office. The reader will decide which one has more of a 1000 years Reich mentality.

note: I changed the original title today because I realized it did not really correspond to what I had in mind when I started writing this post.


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