Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Venezuelan autocracy: a sick celebration of murder

Last week I came back from a 10 days trip to the US of and Colombia. Two imperfect democracies perhaps (mostly Colombia of course) but two countries where the air has a different taste than the country to which I returned. I had been doing some thinking through this trip but whatever I considered I could not put words quite together to express it. The sorry spectacle of Sunday’s festivities did bring it all down anyway.

There is no mental construct that can account for what the picture below says. No words are needed for those of us who know these people, what they have done, where they are taking our country to. And worst of all, there is no good word to describe those who allowed this to happen, those who voted for all of this recklessly, with reasons perhaps, but recklessly as they are the ones who will pay the most for it.

Maybe the foreign reader might think that, well, poor Daniel, he is losing his marbles. Allow me to give you the legend for the picture below. It is a richly meaningful picture and thus I will need several parts. Because, if I have a hard time to make sense of this charade, I can describe it.

The scenery and the main character

The excuse for the parade was for the *celebration* of the February 4th coup attempt by Chavez and his pals against a duly democratically elected government. I stress celebration because in the early Chavez years it was a commemoration, and now it is a celebration soon, I am sure, to become a national holiday. Already it was described in official calls as the 15th anniversary of the Bolivarian Revolution, the electoral and institutional dates of 1998 and 1999 now been replaced by the 1992 one, very fitting for a regime who has only contempt for electoral procedures and institutionalism that could refrain the whims of the great leader.

Let’s start with the obvious: the presence of the armed forces officers at the commemoration of a military coup against democracy. I trust the intelligence of the reader and I will not need to add further comment besides pointing out to the shame of that moment, just as Tal Cual made it the title of today’s edition “Verguenza”, shame.

More than ever the enlightened reader can see in front of his or her eyes that Venezuela has become a military regime, without any decency or discretion, without any care for the forms, smack in your face. Just a plain elected dictatorship. Such as Hitler or Peron regimes were, elected dictatorships where the army ruled without having needed to make a coup, or having the coup supported by the hoi polloi.

But the picture also carries the extent of the personality cult which has come to surround any activity in which Chavez participates these days. Look at the posters. On the left a poster of Chavez at his recent swearing in, after he passed the presidential sash to his left shoulder. He is carrying the sash on the left shoulder over a military uniform, in one of his most ridiculous outfits ever.

There is also the poster on the left site, the one of a skinny younger Chavez of 1992, not the bloated one of today. Now Chavez, the failed coupster of 1992, the one who blew it that February 4 1992, is actually the one in charge today just because he managed to appear on TV that night after having failed his objectives. His famous “Por ahora” catapulted him to popular imagery. His partners such as Arias Cardenas did manage to secure their objectives, but historian Manuel Caballero likes to remind folks that actually Chavez that night did shit in his pants, “el heroe del museo military”, the hero of the Military Museum where Chavez tried to hide as the coward he really is. It is not idle to translate part of Tal Cual editorial today who takes us back to that fateful day in February. In the words of Teodoro Petkoff, a real guerilla of the 60ies, who did expose willingly his life ahead of the lives of others:
When on February 3rd 1992 the comandante Hugo Chavez ordered his airborne soldiers to climb in the trucks that would carry them to Caracas, he did not tell them which was the mission. He says so himself in an interview to Marta Harnecker [One man, one people, Caracas, 2002] “Of them, only a very small number of officers knew what we were going to do that night, the troops knew nothing”. “The troops”, that is the cannon fodder, the conscript soldiers, these 18 year old boys, ignoring of what had been disposed of their lives, he brought them unknowingly. A couple of dozen of them died neither knowing why, nor in the name of what did they gave up their lives. Some did tell later that they thought they had been fighting a military coup against the government. They did not even know that the coupmongers (obliged to be one under false pretense) where themselves. The first step of the “revolution” was deceitfulness. In Venezuela in the 60ies of the last century there were guerillas in the cities and in the country side. All who participated in that thing did so in full knowledge. No one was mislead into taking up to the mountains or to the armed underground. A matter of honor. And of ethics.
That is right, what Chavez was more than commemorating, this Sunday was only a sad deceitful, violent, bloody, anti democratic episode of our history.

The other main characters

Let me give you a brief bio of some of the luminaries under which you will find a number in that picture (they are all singing the National Anthem at the time, adding insult to injury I suppose).

1- Clodosvaldo Russian. The Republic general comptroller. The guy in charge of detecting all corruption. The guy who in fact only detects minor chavista fall guys but leaves uninvestigated all the serious scandals where million of dollars vanish in thin air. The only notorious case on which he has speedily and decisively acted on was against Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition mayor of Chacao, who, with a vote of his municipal council, transferred money form one budget item to another. Not to his pocket, but to the payroll of his town hall employees as Chavez was delaying funds that were owed to his city. Meanwhile figures like Cruz Weffer, just to name a notorious one out of newspaper pages, who are pointed at as being major thieves of the regime, go around accumulating public positions without any of the charges against them receiving any investigation. The living standard of Cruz Weffer is way above those of a general of the Venezuelan Army, whereas Leopoldo Lopez still wears chino pants.

2- Isaias Rodriguez. The general prosecutor of the Republic. This sad, pathetic in fact, character who after having been Chavez vice–president claimed that he was impartial enough to become the new 7 year term General Prosecutor, is also the one who failed to prosecute anyone within the regime. If in this he already largely surpassed Clodosvaldo in inefficiency and moral corruption, his career was made worse by the spectacular bungling of the Anderson case where as days pass it seems more that innocents are made to pay for the real guilty parties of the murder, more than likely situated inside the government. What other possible speculation are we left with if not a cover up of those who did benefit the Anderson assassination? Who else but the government could benefit from Anderson’s murder? But that is not all: event though he was also the vice president of the Constitutional Assembly of 1999, he is now happily presiding to its revision if not outright demise, as per orders of his boss. He cannot even respect his own work, himself. How can we expect him to respect the country and us?

3- Omar Mora. The Chief Justice of the Venezuelan Supreme Court (TSJ). Under his tenure we have witnessed further purging of judges deemed undesirable to the regime and where the requirements to become a judge in Venezuela are that you can demonstrate that you have never been an opponent to Chavez. It does speed up your promotion if you can prove that you are actually a Chavez supporter. This is the Chief Justice who did not blink when the High Court started chanting in unison “Uh, Ah, Chavez no se va” during an official function. In addition if he is not an alcoholic he deserves to be as his voice most of the time sounds as if he had one too many drink. But I suppose that slowness of mind is a quality required in a supreme court these days. At any rate, he is on record as saying that the judicial system must be Bolivarian, whatever ill omens this carries.

4- Cilia Flores. The National Assembly Chair. To say that this woman is one of the poorest possible choices for a parliament presidency is not saying enough. A mediocre lawyer she raised through the top through what we call in Venezuela “operation colchon” (with the help of the mattress). From being a Chavez lawyer, to becoming the lover of Nicolas Maduro, the henchman of Chavez, she eventually made it to the chair of the National Assembly when her cheating partner, caught with another woman at JFK paying first class tickets cash for an intercity flight, was made foreign secretary. Since then she has done her outmost to downgrade the parliament to below the category of rubber stamp. As of now, for the next 18 months, she applauded like crazy the wish of Chavez to rule by decree without the bother to even mail his law projects to the Parliament for an automatic approval. Then again as the lousy lawyer she is, one can understand that Chavez prefers not to have her even write the introduction of the laws he is ordering.

5- General Baduel. The defense minister, head of the army, three Sun general. Thus general well versed in cheap mysticism, who claims to have had several previous lives, is the one who helped the most Chavez to retain power in April 2002. But from defending the constitutional order of the country he has become the general who has helped the most in making the army subservient to Chavez, closing his eyes these days to a very likely incorporation of a cheap militia to the armed forces, which translates into turning the Venezuelan armed forces into a vulgar militia set up to defend the regime. His weak character has been well tested in the past from his refusal to actively participate in the 1992 coup, due to fear as we have been told, to crying in public when Chavez gave him his third sun, as apparently it was unexpected to him to be receiving it, which goes a long way in establishing in what disregard Chavez manages the normal rules of military promotion.

How can we build a country with such a set of henchmen? But they are perfect for Chavez, people who will do anything for him, without ethics, moral and even less honor. Hired guns, possible killers someday even if they never hold a gun themselves.

The rewriting of history

The disgraceful Sunday show, which started as an unusual grey day for the season in Caracas more used to blue skies in February, also brought us several examples on how the regime does not back down at rewriting history, as new lies are not a problem anymore.

Now Chavez is the only hero of February 4. Even Arias Cardenas, the only one of that day that could claim a certain degree of heroism, if a coup d’etat against a democratically elected regime can ever claim such heroes, was flown back from his UN ambassadorship to wear again the uniform. Not a only a violation of military rules, but a fashion crime and a ridicule moment if any. This is the UN ambassador of Venezuela, “un arrastrado” who has decided to sell his soul to the Devil, knowing full well he was doing so since he was one of the first ones to go against Chavez. But money, it seems, talks louder than honor or ethics. No he crawls back to submit himself to Chavez in the most abject form that one can think of. Giving us this priceless portrait of abjection and ridicule, in outmost bad taste.

We also see that diligently the National Assembly has passed yesterday a resolution that dictates for the future the activities that now will be mandatory for yearly February 4 happenings. Not a National Holiday yet, they did not dared to do so yet (unless they want to leave to Chavez the honor of making it a National Holiday?). Still, that did not stop them from creating the “order of the 4th of February”, an order/medal/honor who will commemorate and celebrate the murders and the democracy attack of that infamous day. And let’s not discuss the varied apologists who are trying to justify the murders of February 4th 1992 because eventually the people sided with that today, which remains to be proven by the way, as an election of Chavez does not mean that people do indeed approve of coup making. A little bit as if in France we were to find a way to justify the murders of the French Revolution Terror period because, well, we are now under a Republic. Or if Hitler had created an “order of the concentration camp” in, say, 1941, for deserving prison guards. The mind reels of reading such things coming from people that should know much better. But deliberate ignorance and eye blinders flourish in a regime that only looks favorably on abject adulation.

And before that military parade we also had a dual march which was surprisingly well attended for a chavista event (though as usual hundred of buses lined the highways at Los Proceres). Even though public servants were once again summoned to attend, it remains that such a support was indecent. But it is also counterproductive, a true show of the hubris and stupidity and personality cult of the regime. See, by doing such a celebration Chavez is in fact bringing back the glory of military coup and sooner or later he will get his own coup to unseat him. He will have created himself that idea inside the army and the population. Today they are cheering him. Tomorrow who will they cheer?

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