Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Venezuelan autocracy: building it up (part 1: rulers and ruling methods)

It has come to the attention of some international observers that Chavez is starting to act less and less democratically. Apparently they have been surprised by some recent measures since he got reelected; surprised that Chavez is not acting like, say, a reelected European Social Democratic Prime Minister. Of course, had they been reading blogs they might have known better for a long time. But I do not mean to be sarcastic; in fact this new awareness about the dark side of chavismo is also a reflection on how the regime speeding up the transformation of Venezuelan society towards something dark and unpleasant affects its image, finally. It is now obvious enough that even the recalcitrant Panglossian crowd is starting to raise an eyebrow.

But is there anything really knew? After all since 1999 Chavez has been diligently subverting the established order, but more than constructing a new one he has made sure that no new order could raise against himself. Ergo the crux of the matter: before discussing what has been going on this past couple of month it is important to realize that the only objective of Chavez is to remain in office for life. That he uses a leftist rhetoric, that he might pretend to care about the people, that he has been trying to blame all the evils of the world on the US are only accessories, only tools to reach his real goal: Hugo the Great, king of Venezuela and the surrounding lands.

Now, once the reader has internalized this mere statement of fact about the motivation of Chavez, we can start look at some of the items that have been taken place since December 3, 2006. What has been taken place before can be quickly summarized: absolute control on the judiciary branch of government; control and manipulation of the electoral system; control on the immense majority of local executive offices; control of the legislative; control on the financing sources of the government; removal of any check and balances; removal of any financial scrutiny. All of these were necessary to achieve before starting the next wave described next.

The enabling law

This was the first great perversion of Venezuelan traditions that Chavez grabbed on his way to his autocracy. In the past, incoming *NEW* administrations (emphasis on purpose), could be granted a special enabling law that would allow them to publish decrees with the force of laws on some specified subject matters. The frame was usually restricted to some financial and social areas, limited in time to at most 6 months, justified by some social or economical problems debated during the electoral campaign, with of course the parliament reserving its right to review anything it wished to reviewed after the fact. The government would at least benefit from a few month of application of the law before the parliament could go around such revision. There was also the possibility that a decree would be found unconstitutional by the courts and blocked. Whether these controls had been exerted in the pre-1999 years is irrelevant: they could have happened at least between 1958 and 1999. Today, what is relevant, is that such control mechanisms, as weak as they were, have completely stopped existing.

So we have assisted, speechless, to the spectacle of the Venezuelan Parliament, bending over backward to grant an enabling law to Chavez, a law that will last an amazing 18 months, a law that will cover almost all fields, a law that will even cover structural affairs normally reserved to parliament where they must be voted by 2/3 majority. Not that this last one condition mattered, Chavez disposes of 100% of the parliament good will.

What is truly impressive in this whole exercise is the willingness that the Venezuelan parliament has shown to declare itself useless, not even a toy of the executive power. Not only there was no political crisis to justify such an enabling law, but the 100% majority of the parliament ensures that any law would pass as fast as assembly folks could manage to go to raise their hand at the old Congress building.

No. What Chavez wanted to demonstrate by obtaining an unnecessary and dangerous law, was to show to the world that he is the boss, that his 63% score is his and his alone and that the people voted for him for that, for such abuse, that the new Venezuela is circumscribed now to the 63% that elected him dictator, that the 37% on the other side count for nothing. A brutish show of strength.

Which leads us to the next item in the agenda

The new Venezuelan

Authoritarian regimes do need a popular base.

Sometime they are brought to power by such a base. Fujimori or Chavez, and even Peron up to a point, can claim to have been brought to power through real elections, even if they subverted electoral processes after the day.

Sometime they create it after the fact. Thus did Hitler who reached power with barely 40% of the German people but who managed quickly through an enabling law (Ermächtigungsgesetz) to occupy the field and “unite” the country as a whole where whoever was not in agreement would find its way soon to some concentration camp.

Sometime they pretend consensus existed all along and they do not ever even bother with an election, as is the case of Cuba.

But all in all such regimes tend to want to create the “new man”. For Venezuela the process has already started. Chavismo has been busy at trying to create that new Venezuelan man. That it has not yet quite succeeded is more due to the sheer administrative incompetence of chavismo in general, only able to reach political goals and little else. But the notable fact is that they are trying very hard to “reeducate” the masses to the changing values of the Bolivarian revolution, values still today not quite sharp in the collective psyche. This is due to Chavez difficulties in forging a coherent system. The fact of the matter is that we are in the XXI century and too many Venezuelans have traveled to Miami, too many receive Direct TV at home, too many hang out at cyber cafes. We are not anymore in 1933 or 1958, it is much more difficult to create a mass hysteria than before, the more so when a culture is as hedonistic as the Venezuelan is. But chavismo keeps trying and that is what should worry all of us. And some success can be seen.

You can find an example in a post a few days ago where you an observe all the holders of the principal so called powers of the republic chanting the national anthem in unison to the glory of Chavez 1992 military coup. These pseudo public servants have lost any of their self and now are willful collaborators, or should I say enablers, of the regime. You must first create a caste of lackeys before you can have them transform the volk into whatever you want them to be.

But you can also see it in the language employed by the regime: the chavismo speak is heavy and cumbersome, full of empty words. It is a deliberate strategy of people who seem to have read Orwell (but probably do not even know of the man) and applied his lessons to the letter, even if Orwell denounced that word warfare. Sometime you must listen two or three times to a public servant speech until you realize what he is talking about: but chavistas understand at the first go. It is silly people like me who think that words have a meaning and a purpose who stay behind, perplexed by the revolutionary syntax.

This even affect how news are reported these days, where provincial journalists do not have the stamina to maintain their rank as Caracas journalists still can. Chavismo feeds on mediocrity of course. Let me give you an example of today local paper, a newspaper that used to be an opposition rag in Yaracuy. Refering to a group of chavista “young leaders” the reporting goes as follow (I am not making this up):
Spokespersons of the different sectors of the revolutionary youth in Yaracuy, as they took position over the creation of a Unique Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), qualified it as an extraordinary idea that will imply the union of all the revolutionaries in a monolithic force to strengthen the process that is developing in Venezuela and make reality the bolivarian socialism. [list of names] who in this direction raise their voices to make it known to public opinion their categorical support to this proposal and their commitment to work without pause toward the conformation of the PSUV from the very basis of the Venezuelan people, guarantying the birth of new leaderships for the direction of new bolivarian process and that this one may deepen the changes required in Yaracuy. [actual quote] “we free ourselves from ties and we have recovered our legitimate space and the vanguard that was ours in this historical moment that the Republic lives, just as our precursors and makers of the fatherland did at the battle of La Victoria. Only thus we will fulfill with the authentic bolivarian socialism of the XXI century with the participation of the people”.

If you needed to catch your breath more than once, and read the stuff more than once, you were not alone.

But most of all you find that the regime is advancing in the creation of the new Venezuelan man when you see the result of the December 3 election. The Venezuelan people have voted in full knowledge for a dictator, or at the very least for a strong state that will solve their problems. Manuel Caballero had no qualms in saying it: the Venezuelan people voted for a dictator, for the guy who is perceived as the only one to eventually someday might solve some of their problems through the sate. In voting such the Venezuelans who voted for Chavez have surrendered any personal belief that their future might in part depend on their work and initiative. They do not mind a regime that has no problem in promoting exclusion of groups, be it through fascist instruments such as the Tascon list or promoting a reverse racism that has no deep roots in the Venezuelan psyche where foreigners, slaves, natives and conquistadores mixed better than anywhere else in the Spanish empire. Oh yes, it is still discrete, very Politically Correct in a tropical way, the tough words are not easily pronounced. Itt bears repeating, we are in the Internet era. But the language has been set, the targets pointed, the people have agreed. It is only a matter of time until acts are perpetrated on a large scale.

The new leadership

Through 8 years of rule Chavez, helped largely with his Cuban advisors, has had plenty of time to decant the alluvial crowd that joined him at first. Many of the 1999 luminaries are now long forgotten, or have renounced to any self project and personality. Now there is a class of executants (hired guns? Tueurs á gages?) who has emerged and who have formed last January the first truly chavista cabinet.

Should we start with the portrait of Nicolas Maduro, a lousy labor activist in Caracas subway, ill prepared, uncouth, who now directs the foreign policy of Venezuela for the only reason that he will say exactly what Chavez wants to be said in international forums?

Should we mention the first communist party member to exercise an important cabinet position where he will decide how the famous “popular power” will be activated? Should we mention that this guy did not even manage to finish his college degree in a university where you are not required to be a luminary to graduate?

Should we mention Pedro Carreño, a Chavez childhood pal and confident who has been named to preside all of the Venezuelan security apparatus? Is it necessary to remind folks that Carreño, with a straight face announced to the country that Direct TV was filming people’s home through the decoder? Who swore that Peruvian security folks told him that Montesinos was dead when he was hiding inside Venezuela not even a mile away from where Carreño worked then? All of these errors would have been in good fun if Carreño at some point had said at least” ooops! My bad!”. But he remains unrepentant.

All of these people are killers. Not necessarily real live killers, but they certainly have no moral or ethics themselves and thus have no problem in morally assassinating anyone in the country. Having no self respect, no shame, no ethics, they will go and destroy anyone’s reputation as needed. They can also destroy the livelihood of those who they dislike, and who knows, maybe one day go even further.

Actually we even have a poster boy for this new type of scum leadership that graces now the front pages of the newspapers. The new vice president is the epitome of that new chavista man. His background is quite simple: he is the son of an assassinated opponent to AD. But unlike folks who rose above personal outrage and hurt to rule for the better good of the country, Jorge Rodriguez is an unreconstructed “resentido social”. As such, his career is exclusively dedicated to revenge from an old order who if it killed his father still allowed him to get an education and allowed his boss to become elected president in the last clean elections of our history, those of 1998.

Jorge Rodriguez was plucked from obscurity (as a public servant inherited from the preceding Caldera administration). He is a psychiatrist by trade, a psychiatrist of the school of Hannibal Lecter. Since Chavez promoted him to direct the Electoral Council of Venezuela, his sole vocation has been to make sure that his boss would not lose a single election, helping along the way to the destruction of any democratic opponent, going as far as qualifying of “pillos”, bandits, those who had dared to gather Recall Election signatures. Now as a reward, he has risen from the position where the most impartiality was required to the one where the most obscene partiality is required: vice president of a regime. This blog does not use direct insults as not conducting to debate, but on occasion a strong qualifying word can be of use. There is a good US slang term that describes perfectly what Rodriguez is: sick fuck.

As a side comment, if anyone has a doubt that there was some electoral fraud in august 2004 (and the preceding months during the traumatic signature collection) that doubt should be erased. Had Jorge Rodriguez be a decent and honest man he would not have accepted the job of Vice President considering the responsibilities he used to have. An ambassadorship, even a technical cabinet position would have sufficed. But Rodriguez has also the default of the new chavista man, the hubris suffered by the people who could never get high profile on their own. When one above them brings them out of their mediocrity, they somehow think that they have something to do with that happy occurrence (sarcasm intended). Besides a resentment nourished thirst for power, Rodriguez is falling into the hubris that people might also love him. As he tries to build his own base, he will court his own destruction from the great Conducator. But then again the new chavista man is generally unable to access this gnosis.

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The cast of characters is set and their tools established. Now we must examine how these actors are modifying the country.

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