Friday, May 25, 2007

Those exquisite revolutionary moments: RCTV as the "me, my, mine" moment of the autocrat with the tearing apart of a country

The RCTV closing is now a 99.9% certainty. One always hope that at the end some common sense should prevail, but I, for one, have stopped doubting long ago that Chavez will go ahead and close RCTV next Sunday.

Rather than focus on the legalities, this might be a good moment to think about the real meaning and implications of the near fait accompli, if you forgive me a slight oxymoron.

The closing was never in doubt since the late December announcement by Chavez. Oh, yes, in the months that followed there was some hope that Chavez could not do it. But that was at best wishful thinking since no mechanism seemed to exist to stop such barbarism. And this starting with what should have been the main mechanism of resistance, the political opposition which was vacationing unconsciously all the way through the end of January.

The reality was that Chavez had decreed the closing of RCTV because it was his way to tell us that now he was the master of Venezuela. And that he was angry that we were not accepting it that easily, starting with some of his allies. At the root of all of this I am not afraid to point out to the dysfunctional character of Chavez who complains because he only got 63% last December. That angry “victory” press conference a few days after December 3 should have told everyone what they needed to know: 37% for the opposition was unacceptable and we were going to pay for it. One of the first natural targets had to be RCTV, the network with the highest ratings in Venezuela, and the one that had refused to stop criticizing the government in spite of all the regulations created to neuter television. Chavez simply could not accept that RCTV had been smart enough to find a way to keep pressing on, had found a way not to kneel in front of El Surpemo. Chavez had to show Venezuela was his, that he is the boss.

How can any one doubt it? Did Chavez not say all sorts of “me, my, mine” statements through these past 5 months? Did he not even say that the High Court would never go against a “sovereign” decision of the government (confirming by the way in his own mouth that he was above the courts)? These recent months have been the perfect stage for Chavez to show us that he was above the media, that he was above justice, that he was above international opinion, that he was above decency, ethics and morality. Chavez was going to go all the way through the closing of RCTV because he had to show once and for all that the was the authority in Venezuela, above elections and law.

But the price he will pay is phenomenal. I will pass quickly on the obvious such as the international condemnations raining on him. I can take today’s articles from Spain El Pais which dedicates a stinging editorial with an accompanying note. We can examine the US Senate resolution that might be taken unanimously today, a rather rare event for a cantankerous Senate mired in Iraq problems. Or we could look at the European Parliament resolution (which El Pais complains by the way that only 3 Spaniards participated in the vote). These condemnation started already, from places such as the Chilean Senate creating the first serious warning to Chavez (and weakening further Bachelet). But he went though, weathering a Brazilian minister criticism, a series of international organizations reproaches, and what not, including outright lies from his lackeys and ambassadors..

No, the real price Chavez will pay is in Venezuela. The damage that Chavez will bring on Venezuela next Sunday will be without repair, for him as well as for those who oppose him. As of next Sunday night we will have started on the road to violence and civil conflict again. It will not be helped, and I am certain now that this is what Chavez wants, as the only way he has left to reduce that 37% he cannot stand.

Because what is important in the RCTV closing is that for the first time Chavez “takes away”. Until now a lot of folks turned a blind eye on Chavez as long as they received some benefit. In a country where democracy was taken for granted, and where democracy was looked upon as rather ineffective to solve the country’s problems, that Chavez was a little bit authoritarian was OK as long as money seemed to flow down to the masses.

But the RCTV will change that perception. All of these folks, except, according to polls, the rabid 20% chavista core, are opposed to the RCTV closing because they know exactly what it means. For some it is the end in soap opera choice. There will be only the novelas of Venevision, and those for not too long as many chavistas have said for a long time that novelas should not be shown on TV anymore. For many it will be the end of dissenting information. In all the areas where Globovision does not reach there will be no more air borne information where governmental deficiencies are shown, where the local people can go and denounce governmental abuses or poor services. For others it will be the end of choice in trashy entertainment such as the silly TV games. That announces to them in a unique way the arrival of a puritanical aspect of the revolution that they never believed in.

Now, for the first time all Venezuelans will learn that there is a price to pay for everything and that the “gifts” from Chavez were not so. Cassandras from the newspapers to this modest blogger have said it all along, the Piper will come to cash his due. And the RCTV closing is only the first installment we will have to pay for shoddily supplied Mercal stores and free aspirin at Barrio Adentro. The time of choices is coming and a complaisant country will start realizing what the revolution really meant all along. The consequences are for all to figure out easily.

-The end-

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