Thursday, September 11, 2008

And now a "glorious" cadena. What is Chavez up to?

To crown up the day, Chavez flew speedily from Puerto Cabello were he was 2 hours ago. He just popped out, exhausted at an "spontaneous" rally outside Miraflores (not that well attended as I could see but still, impressive enough for VTV courtesy of the dark). We got a cadena of course. His speech was short, the man is exhausted. He announced that a few people were being arrested for a coup attempt (coup? where? when? on the road from Caracas today I saw only "normalcy" everywhere).

The speech included the usual platitudes, that another coup was foiled, that the revolution was winning, that the opposition would never win, etc, etc... Of course neither during the speech nor through the day earlier we were shown real evidence of anything, not even the names of those arrested (except for some but without good reasons). He added that Venezuela would never had an ambassador exchange as long as the US did not get a real government.

In a way by itself the cadena might not mean much, was not that relevant except for the obvious attempt at making it a TV moment like the infamous propaganda movie "The Revolution will not be televised" of the Irish journalists frauds. So we must look meaning elsewhere, as in what is the situation for Chavez. It is grim. In no particular order.
  • Oil prices are going down. At 100, when you subtract the large amounts that are going to Chavez international pet projects, Venezuela might be receiving in true only about 80$. That level is not enough for the current spending levels of Chavez, in a country were raising taxes further will simply kill private enterprise and dramatically slow down production. Even chavismo knows that further tightening will kill the golden goose.
  • Maletagate, of course. The effect on the reputation of chavismo at home an abroad will be devastating medium term. Important business and investment decisions will be put on hold indefinitely or scrapped altogether. And a lot of government will be reluctant to have their picture taken with Chavez least they are considered corrupt too. One thing is rumors, another thing is an actual trial.
  • The polls. They are not good for Chavez. The opposition keeps getting its act together. Tachira and Yaracuy are on the verge of final arrangements, leaving Bolivar state alone as the lone unresolved candidature. But chavismo is finding more and more trouble and rumors are coming up that a few changes will take place in the line up. The problem with that is the nature of changes, they will be imposed on Chavez and that can only damage further his ascendancy. That is, Chavez is losing control over his crowd which is more worrisome for him than the opposition getting 10 states on November 23.
  • The economy. Inflation last months was still a whopping 1.8% which translates to a total of 50.7% on food since August 2007. And guess who is the most hit by food price increases? The chavista voter. The near stopping of private investment this year ensures that jobs in production of goods are not going to increase and that only bureaucratic jobs will be the only way for folks to get a steady income. For how long? And how many of them?
  • The quality of life. Traffic is at an all time high. Police nowhere to be seen. Crime rate is not batting. Shortages are timidly starting to reappear, including gas. I have seen three gas stations closed or partially closed this week!!!! Blackouts, water scarcity, garbage accumulation, wrecked road, collapsing public transport, hospitals with longer and longer lines, etc....
  • International policy. Ortega is less and less received and people refused to have their picture taken with him. Evo won his referendum but little good did it do to him. Cristina Kirchner is looking for ways to distance herself from Chavez. Castro might or might not be brain dead. Putin is using him, so obviously that it is embarrassing.
  • The dollar US. Its climbing makes the huge Euros reserves he transferred less valuable. It might help Chavez import stuff from Europe but makes US imports relatively more expensive. And Chavez relies on a lot of these imports to keep his crowds happy.
  • Bush is soon out. Who is Chavez going to attack? Obama?
So possibly Chavez is simply looking for a confrontation, his own Bay of pigs, to get rid once and for all of the opposition leadership, of his internal dissidence, to become once and for all Hugo I, king of all the Venezuelas. Any excuse would do, and if you need to invent yet another assassination attempt and arrest a few people without reason to get that excuse to crack down, or at least postpone difficult elections, so be it. This is how we should take all recent events, from the coup video, tot he Puerto Cabello anti US aggression, to the glorified hysteria of a mediocre cadena a few minutes ago.

Difficult days ahead, stay tuned.

-The end-

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