However it is important to note that this week events do mark a turning point in the projected image of Hugo Chavez. As of now, even those who did not care much about him, at home or abroad, will be faced with enough information that they will need to ask themselves questions. That is, of course, if these people know where Venezuela is. Never mind those who support him as they are faced with so much negative evidence: their hour of reckoning has come.
It has indeed been a bad week for Chavez, and a very bad if we look at the consequences of his projected image. After all he has only himself to blame as he uttered scatological words that no sane president of any country should ever utter in public anywhere. When he equated the US with shit he was not equating only the US, he was including anyone anywhere who did not do as he willed. Even if you live in Malawi you must wonder if such obscenity will ever reach the shores of Lake Nyasa. And I cite Malawi because I have had 9 hits form that country since I have been writing this blog.
Truly, Chavez has enough problems to perturb his delicate mental balance, or activate his Tourette syndrome as Gustavo Coronel claims he suffers from. But definitely it seems that the Miami trial of the 800,000 USD Argentina bound bag is acting as the final fuse in Chavez self revelation. Even though no verdict has been reached, the consequences are for all to see.
The latest revelations are complicating seriously Chavez panorama. In Argentina where the press is more efficient than in Venezuela, where there is a more articulated opposition and where a semblance of justice still exists, this week end brought to us a set of articles in La Nacion. We learn that in that fateful August 2007 flight, besides the 800,000 USD that were caught they might have been 4,200,000 USD more that did made it through the custom check. La Nacion also takes the opportunity to associate this Chavez funding of the Cristina Kirchner campaign with other somber funding attributed to some drug money laundering. Even her own vice president is increasing his distance with Cristina Kirchner. No wonder Cristina suddenly canceled her scheduled trip to Venezuela: she knew what was coming. Or maybe she also realized that the days to be photographed close to Chavez might be over.
On the US front we see a quick retaliation. Simon Romero at the NYT gives a complete update that even includes an MP3 podcast worth listening to. Besides the expected expulsion of the Venezuelan ambassador (who returned crazed to Caracas) it put on the security watch list of the Treasury department three high ranking Venezuelans officials: the head of Venezuela’s military intelligence agency, Gen. Hugo Carvajal, Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, the director of Venezuela’s DISIP intelligence agency, and Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, who resigned as interior minister this week. By doing that the US sends a clear message to Chavez that the drug trafficking he tolerates, that the FARC connivance are duly noted, duly documented and that at any time Venezuela can be put on the pariah nation list. By not doing so at this time it allows other Chavez supporters that were dreaming about enjoying their loot that they might not be able to do so if they keep supporting Chavez antics, to give them a mild name.
In short, the clear message of the US is that Chavez is guilty by association. And this has profound implications all across our Western Hemisphere. After all from now on when Lula or Correa of anyone else cozies up to Chavez, all chancelleries in the world will be allowed to wonder about that link. Buy out? Extortion? Blackmail? Complicity? How much did he give to your election-reelection campaign? All the enablers of Latin America are now exposed as what they have been all long: enablers of the most corrupt regime in Venezuela history, a regime that has squandered the money and the future of the Venezuelan people for the sake of a crazed individual dream that hid behind an empty social redemption message. That also allows us to question about the sincerity of the social message of those enablers, by the way.
But in Venezuela things are not going too well either as the Chavez Teflon shows finally signs of deteriorating. And we know that once the first scratch holds, the other scratches come easier. The political opposition is the first to be congratulated: it leaves the follow up of Chavez obscenities and corruption to the media while it focuses on the real problems of the country. Chavez image is deteriorated enough that they do not feel obliged to reply to his provocations anymore. I could see that myself with the meager response of the chavista crowds in San Felipe to the alleged recent coup/assassination claim. A few dozens red shirted protesters in front of the State House of San Felipe, writing on cars "No al golpe" and not been offended, even smiling, when I did not let them write that on my car. I was not afraid, they did not care. A year ago I would have allowed them to write anything they wanted (washable liquid white chalk, by the way, very standard practice in the provinces, kind of our temporary bumper stickers). A year ago they would have insulted me had I refused, and be more numerous too.
As it was the case in May 2007, chavismo and Chavez cannot find the right chord, the creative reply. Then they tried to put up fast a pseudo Bolivarian student movement. It never took off, was shown early to be a sham as many of the promoted "leaders" were state employees. In fact, one of them is already a minister of Chavez, in what must be one of the fastest ascensions in Venezuelan politics. This time after having stone walled for over a year the "maletin" case, the only thing they could come up with was to demand that the prosecutors in Miami come to Caracas to explain themselves. The absurdity of this speaks by itself. The ridicule of their position must be making any serious tribunal following the case roll with laughter. I mean, the Venezuelan prosecutor office has yet to interrogate seriously the folks involved in that fateful flight, amen of questioning their bosses, and instead they are blatantly trying to shot the messenger, Thomas Mulvihill of the Florida prosecution office. We truly have seen it all....
It does not really matter that Chavez is starting some backpedaling by admitting that the coup and assassination attempt were really not that serious: the damage to his image he did this week is just too great, definitive. There is no repair. Now the road ahead of him is solitary, maybe long or maybe short, but solitary. All the people that matter will abandon him before they get dragged further into the Bolivarian muck (even the Bolivian military rejected in no uncertain terms the offer of Venezuelan intervention). Only rapists like Ortega, and vampires like the Castro brothers will keep clinging to him, depending on how many zeros are still on his checkbook. If you doubt it you need to watch the extraordinary satire against Chavez that Jaime Bayly gave last Friday in his show. When people can say such things on TV, even in Miami, set of anti chavismo/castrism, you know how ridiculous Chavez has become to the world (four 10 minute clips, worth watching if you undestnad Spanish, and if you support Obama).
But Chavez is not really sorry, nor is he able to be. Any sweetener he throws this late is a lie. As this week event proceeded, he went on to divide Venezuela into military zones were generals named by him will rank higher than governors elected by the people, ensuring future conflict and violence against the people. A nice way to admit that he is about to lose the November 23 election by a wider margin than he expected, and he will not recognize the resutl, just as the 26 decree laws enacted a few weeks ago were a slap at last December popular will.
To close this post I want to quote the last paragraph of today's entry of Milagros Socorro in El Nacional (subscription only). She has a meditation of sorts on the Stanislavski method which amounts in brief to use "emotional memory" that recreates in a way a situation form the past to give credibility to the present. That is, Chaevz appeals to the "legend" of the coup through the positive 1992 experience (according to his moral criteria) to revive his sagging fortunes today by refreshing his image. Unfortunately as Milagros points out, you need to care for your language if you want thsi to work.
El jefe de estos tristes extras, por su parte, no necesitó apelar a la memoria emotiva que aconsejaba Stanislavski. A ése le basta sentir el aliento de la justicia internacional en la nuca –que no otro parece ser el resultado del juicio de Miami– para que emerja su verdadera naturaleza primitiva. Y salga de su boca lo único que tiene para dar.Truly a great way to view Chavez words last Thursday night.
[Chavez] The boss of these sad extras, on his part, does not need to appeal to the emotional memory that Stanislavski advised. He just needs to feel the breath of international justice on his neck -which is nothing less than the Miami trial - for his true primitive nature to emerge. And from his mouth leaves the only thing he has to offer.