On Saturday I do news hygiene; that is, once I have read the papers I do not watch any news on TV for the rest of the day. No radio, no Globovision, not even Internet Google News. It is the necessary weekly break. So I missed the biggie in Venezuela which I learned about this morning only via the NYT newsletter. Well, at least I can say that my sanitary Saturday satisfied.
Checking back with El Universal, indeed Chavez announced yesterday that he will withdraw the ley sapo for revision, that article 16 which made it mandatory for any one to collaborate with the intelligence apparatus "was a mistake". I suppose that the words of Cardinal Urosa stating that law the secret of confession was violated through that ley sapo were too much pressure, even in a country were Catholic confession is today a rarity. Symbols do have a weight.
Thus in front of universal condemnation of a totally unnecessary law, unless your intention is to establish a dictatorship Cuban style, Chavez decided to step back. Does this prove anything? Yes, it does, but not necessarily what one would wish.
It proves that the government learned from the closing of RCTV. This ley sapo had the potential to become an even worse issue than the closing of RCTV. The prompt outcry which was magnifying stupendously fast through public opinion would have had worse electoral consequences in November. Numbers being much lower than what they were when the decision to close RCTV was taken, the government decided that it would be best to "review" the law. I am willing to bet that it will be entrusted to a commission that will not say anything about it until AFTER the election.
It proves that the government will do a much less arrogant campaign than what it did last year for the referendum. That might improve its chances and teach it some inside how democracy works.
But it also proves without a doubt where chavismo is headed in the long run and even if Chavez withdrew that law we all know, even chavistas, what are his intentions, to create a subject society Cuban style held together through informers. That he might be able to do so is irrelevant, what matters is that he thinks that way and that colors everything he does. Let's not forget that video confession on VTV where his security employees admit already using routine spying on any politician in Venezuela.
No matter what spin control was launched yesterday, it was probably too late and will remain a simmering campaign issue. I expect Rodriguez Chacin to leave the Interior Ministry any time soon: after this major blunder, and the FARC ties that must appear to be over for the time being, he has overstayed his welcome back.