While it is difficult to reach conclusions based on a few conversations and observations after being back for a full day, here are my most relevant first impressions:
- While I was gone for only a week, there seems to be a clear change in atmosphere. The Government appears to be more incoherent than ever., having suffered a considearble loss of face after last Monday’s march. Clearly there is a considerable amount of bickering within the Government as to how to proceed from here.
- Monday Nov. 4th. did not become another April11th. for a number of reasons. First of all, people were better prepared, as demonstrated by the fact that the AP reporter hGovernment continued to attempt to show that it was a good citizen of the world. This time, it was hard to fool everyone all the time. Finally, the fact that some of the leadership of Chavez’ MVR tried to stop the violent attempt to block the march, limited the violence to the group already there since the morning and the presence of teh police and National Guard definitely helped.
- That Venezuela is clearly headed for an election is clear now. The opposition now has the upperhand after handing in the 2 million plus signatures last week (even if only 1,5 million are validated). Reprtedly Chavez may call for a general election, which would imply he does not want to particvipate in any procvess which he may lose. (If he called for elections, he could not run), while Vice-President Rangel denies this, the strategy is to try to field a candidate less identified with MVR (El Universal suggests today it may be Claudio Fermin).
- The opposition seems to be focusing its strategy on the referendum leaving details aside such as who the Government’s representatives are and whether Chavez formally named them or not.
- To complicate matter further Chavez vetoed the electoral bill which was approved with the votes of only his MVR majority in the National Assembly. This has not set well with some of his supporters who see it for what it is: another maneuver to delay the possibility of an election.
- PDVSA may now be back into the picture as there were protests there today and some are scheduled for tomorrow. The issue was an MVR event held in PDVSA over the weekend which went against company policy of not involving the corporation with politics. To make matters even worse, the President of PDVSA reacted badly initially when he was welcomed by pot-bangers, he later apologized but a protest against him will take place tomorrow.
- The protest in Altamira continues, diminished, but very much alive. This is in itself a problem for the Government as everyday there are events that take place there that are widely covered by the media, contributing to wearing down the Government.
Thus, a lot has happened, time is compressing fast. Chavez appears to be running out of options, but somehow, he still holds on……