Monday, February 22, 2010

Chavismo inner trouble might be major than expected: rats abandoning ships or democracy revival?

The day surprised me with the announcement that Henri Falcon, Lara State governor, decided to abandon Chavez party, the PSUV.  But he did not go to the opposition, he requested to enter to the PPT, a Chavez/PSUV junior coalition member, giving them a rather poisoned gift.  Timeo danaos et dona ferentes...

The news even marked the English Press with a Business Week report!

Henri Falcon, as the thoughtful executive
Henri Falcon is one of the very few chavista left that was worth anything, as this blog has been repeating occasionally since at least 2006 when I wrote "...the more dynamic mayor of Barquisimeto, Henri Falcon, the only chavista I could see myself voting for".  Twice elected mayor of Barquisimeto, without any trouble, and elected governor of Lara in 2008 with a higher percentage than Chavez in 2006 (73,52 to 66,47) courtesy of a large opposition sector voting for him.

It is not that Falcon is particularly bright, but he is dedicated to his job, has enough civil service sense, and cultivates pragmatism understanding that governing a community can be done only with the community and not against it, at least as far as basic values are concerned.  In other words, for him change comes through example and results, not because he said so, a rare quality in a military who can also on occasion have is outbursts.  Fortunately for him, in spite of being lodged within chavismo, of being surrounded by authoritarians only too willing to sabotage his actions, and of being a military himself, pragmatism dominates in the end (or so far should I say?).

Redder days, already sticking out
His troubles are not new.  Already in mid 2008 chavismo though Reyes Reyes, the failed governor of Lara who wanted to impose his son as successor, Falcon was about to be denied the chance to run for governor even though all polls made him a shoo in.  He was briefly exclude of the PSUV, for not even 48 hours if memory serves me well.  He came back as the PSUV candidate leaving Reyes Reyes son to run for the state assembly of which supposedly he was to be the Chair.  Though 2009 he was constantly questioned, even directly by Chavez even though he worked diligently to make sure Lara would vote SI on the February referendum.  But for Chavez only unconditional submission is accepted ad Falcon never forgot that if Chavez was president of Venezuela, Larenses did not elect him to be his step stool.

Since his 2008 election Falcon has been constantly sabotaged, to the point that even the successor he chose and helped to win the Barquisimeto town hall turned against him.  From the second half of 2009 it had become clear that his exit or expulsion from chavismo was a matter of time.  Personally I thought it could happen when the PSUV decided on its Lara candidates for September as Falcon would demand to have a least a majority of the nominees, or a general primary.  Or later as some compromise would be reached.  But certainly before 2012 a chavismo would not allow him to run for reelection.  The exit happened yesterday through a paid press release, a personal letter of Falcon to Chavez.

I suspect that two events accelerated the process.  First the CNE gerrymandered the Lara districts, the only chavista held state to suffer such manipulation.  The reason was either to weaken the Falcon wing in case of primaries as his area of influence were put with the one of the opposition, forcing him in an opposition alliance or submit him once and for all.  The last straw was probably the off the ass decision of Chavez to expropriate two Polar warehouses in the industrial section of Barquisimeto to make subsidized housing.  This was too much because Barquisimeto is one of the very few cities of Venezuela who actually has some kind of urban planning and Falcon was not going to accept that Chaevz wrecked it just because of his personal vendetta with Polar.  The more so that Barquisimeto is surrounded by plenty of land for population growth, with the possibility of making rather cheap mass transit lines if chavismo had enough vision beyond Chavez international glory.

What does it all means in the end, besides the obvious that can be read in Falcon letter, such as a vertical Leninist PSUV, a lack of dialogue, the view that nay governor or mayor in Venezuela is there to serve Chavez without any consideration for the local reality?  It is important to note that Falcon embraces the left fully in his letter and seeks to join the PPT, a Chavez coalition member, thus indicating clearly that he has nothing to do formally with the opposition except fr local agreement points in Lara administration.  Thus Falcon is indeed the first real pro Chavez politician to bail out.  Previous bail outs, from Baduel to Miquilena ,were form people who had a life before Chavez and eventually broke with him.  Before Chavez Falcon was a non-entity and all he did and got was working for Chavez, within chavismo.  That is the real importance of Falcon departure and probably a sign of things to come, a true reflection of what is going inside chavismo where the pro-Cuba authoritarian rule of Chavez is less and less accepted (as we could sense from some cabinet resignation early this year).

In short, what we see with Falcon resignation is that a very significant section of chavismo willing to accept for a while undemocratic measures for the sake of speeding up social changes are realizing that they have accepted enough and that it is time to develop real institutions, not based on a single man.  The consequences will be momentous although at this point we can foresee neither the road, nor the timetable.  That is, will this speed up chavismo decomposition or will this speed up Chavez radicalization and final kick to democracy pretense?

Right now we can only speculate reasonably on some immediate consequences.

The PPT is in a quandary as we can even suspect that they are not ready for Falcon proposal.  It is quite possible that Falcon petition to enter the PPT was an in pectore proposal to make sure he would not be seen as leaving he "revolution".  This is a poisoned gift for the PPT because accepting Falcon can open wide the door of Lara state after they were expelled from Guarico.  But also it could force the PPT to leave Chavez coalition and be mauled into nothingness next election (anyone elected in Falcon's lists, PPT or opposition, will owe his/her seat to Falcon more than anything else).  Let's not forget that the PPT is originally a cession of once powerful Causa R and that its major historical leaders have long left it (Medina and Isturiz), making the PPT more of a remora like to Chavez shark.

Electorally this is a problem for the PSUV as Lara is now a competitive sate where three tendencies will fight it out with equal chances: the PSUV, Falcon followers and the opposition.  Will  the opposition accept a deal with Falcon to carry the whole state?  That will depend on what the PPT will do.  But Lara is not the only state where a Falcon dissident campaign can have effect.  In Yaracuy currently the opposition has a weak chance at 1 out of the 5 seats.  But with Falcon campaigning, in particular in the Yaritagua area close to Barquisimeto, Yaracuy could have now at lest two seats leaning opposition!  A similar effect could be seen in the Acarigua seat of Portuguesa and maybe influence in Trujillo State outcome.  All in all, a dozen seats are under the "Falcon effect".  This is enough to rob either chavismo or the opposition from an outright victory making the Falcon group a king maker of sorts, the best thing that could happen for chavismo if this one were inhabited by rational spirits. 

And that is about all we can say now.  Betting for a Falcon candidacy in 2012, a chavismo without Chavez is way premature, if not even ridiculous as Falcon is big around here but useless in Oriente and Guyana, and not much in between Valencia and Caracas.  As such Falcon is neither the secret weapon for the opposition, nor the latest frijolito avatar. True, he will benefit of a larger national exposure now, but so did Baduel, and Miquilena and many others.  Falcon is certainly stronger than them for being the lone chavista politician to have developed his own political base but even this one depends heavily on his ability to attract opposition fringes.  Then again his timing to leave the PSUV ship might be perfect as he probably knows better than many what is really going on inside.  This is just the start.


  1. ...and how long before he will be charged with a crime and prevented from running for office?

  2. Anonymous11:35 PM

    As you know many hard core oppo voted for Falcon. My guess is that unless he is politically taken out. He will have influence in the lara region; even if the oppo "Lideres" do not get in bed with him.

  3. barqui

    true, but november 2008 is not september 2010. hard core opposition would vote for a yellow dog if they thought it would be enough to remove chavez.

    the mechanics here are different becasue conceivably falcon might want to create a hinge group in parliament, a hinge that will give the majority to either side. and that is possible. "falconistas", with or without the PPT, could get 2 seats in yaracuy, maybe 5 in lara and 3 more within portuguesa, cojedes, trujillo and guarico. 10 seats might be enough because they would all be taken from seats that would go to chavez in normal election! and without needing any "un-seeming" alliance with the opposition! that is, the opposition and falcon can play their cards right, not get in bed together, recover the national assembly for democracy and wait for 2012 to settle final scores.

  4. Did chavez respond to this event? Is that true he threatened the way of Baduel?

    For years some have suggested chavez demise would come from within chavez. We can always hope this is an indication of such or at least an opening in the door.

  5. jsb

    he is already governor and banning him from running for reelection just ensures that whomever he choses to replace him in lara would win. "inhabilitacion" works best when folks try to change elected office.

  6. glenn

    chavez has not replied yet. but he did plenty of previous declarations and implications that a swift reply is not needed. he has a few days to figure out the best answer. i expect him to threaten the PPt with the boot if they take falcon in.

    then again, chavez and the psuv could make a deal with falcon and allow him back giving him some serious local autonomy. i ain't holding my breath....

  7. How many political parties are there in Venezuela? It sounds like there are too many opposition parties, making them all rather small. Has this been done on purpose, to not give Hugo one big target?

  8. Looks like your analysis is on the right track, kemosabe.

  9. 1979 Boat People5:25 PM


    Docs Say Cuba & Venezuela 'Enslaved' Them

    Love to hear what those leftish gonna to say about this.

  10. 1979 Boat People5:48 PM


    Uribe to Chavez: You Can Act Like A Man!

    Finally, a head of state called Thugo Chavez a coward.

    Go Uribe go!

  11. 1979 Boat People4:47 AM

    Chavez a truly coward.

    Chavez regrets spat with Colombian president

    The World needs more leaders like Uribe to shut Chavez's loud mouth.

    Just wonder what Lula, ALBA and the Ks thought about this shouting match.

  12. Looks like the "Falcon effect" is starting to take place.

    Great analysis, once again.

  13. Daniel,

    Why did Chavez tolerate the disobedience of the PPT?

    It is hard to really understand the relationship of the PPT vs. Chavez.On one hand the PPT got away with resisting Chavez's demands that they incorporate themselves into the PSUV.Chavez even got to the point of calling them traitors.

    You even define them as dissident Chavismo,whereas Chavez is not known to brook any dissidence within his ranks.

    On the other hand, the PPT has no policy differences with Chavez, never criticizes him in any way, is totally obedient to him and an active part of the Chavez coalition.

    About Henri Falcon, leaving the PSUV, the fact that he is now being criticized by the Chavistas,doesn't mean much because we have to remember that Arias Cardenas was also strongly criticized but then was accepted back into the fold.

  14. PPT were "early adopters" of "the project", and thus enjoy a certain freedom depsite the occasional bout of projectile spittle from Thugo.

  15. Robert,

    Thanks for your reply.

    To the extent that Chavez idealizes the sublime origins of " the project" he cuts some slack for old time sake to keep its historical image impeccable.

    So it's all about the project, no wonder Henri Falcon always proclaims his solidarity to it.

    One of the premises of the project is that its importance transcends bourgeois concerns about human rights.


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