After being away, a week is roughly the time it takes to get a feeling for what is going on. My feeling is that little has changed during this month. The Government signed the agreement with the opposition under pressure from the Group of Friends, the Carter Center and the OAS, but little has changed as witnessed by the travesty in the National Assembly this week. Chavez wants to rule in totalitarian fashion and he will do whatever it takes to make that happen. His control over the National Assembly is flimsy and he will try to control the Supreme Court if he can pass the Supreme Court Bill that will allow him to increase the number of justices from twenty to thirty. There is no electoral commission and thus no elections can be held, no referendum can even be organized in this country. Is this a democracy? Of course not. The problem is that Chavez wants a CNE (Electoral Commission) that he can control, so that he can use his usual dirty tricks, maneuvers and tactics to simply delay it until August 2004 when his Vice-President can take over. Since he appoints the Vice-President with a decree, he will likely name his own brother right before the referendum is to take place.
The economy is being destroyed and there is little the Chavez administration is doing for it. Only US$ 18 million has been handed out by the exchange control office, while the Government instead of worrying about governing, is importing food (no customs duty, no taxes) and competing against the private sector, selling inferior products 10% below usual prices. Someone is making a lot of money in these deals, but what else is new in the Bolivarian revolution.
People are as polarized in their thinking about the future, as the country is polarized politically. There is one camp that has almost given up and thinks there is little chance of stopping Chavez (I lean towards their side). Young people are packing up, looking for luck elsewhere. The lines outside the Spanish, Italian and Portuguese Embassies are huge, filled with the children of the immigrants that made this country prosperous, as they take advantage of fairly lax laws in those countries that give them passports and they can thus emigrate. Most people in this camp plan to leave if soemthing has not happened by the end of the year.
The other camp is optimistic. They think the destruction of the country will eventually bring Chavez down as “something” happens to bring him down. They also think that once Chavez begins to block the referendum, the military will force his hand. I disagree, but hope I am wrong. I think there is little the military or the international community can do at this time. It is simply up to us. Come August 19th. we have to request the referendum and if it does not take place, take to the streets and force Chavez’ hand. It is the only way. If we don’t do it, Venezuelans will become like the Cubans or the Iranians and forty years from now, historians will still be wondering how Chavez’ empty revolution took control of the country and ruined it, the same way in which they analyze Castros’ perpetuation in power.
That is why Chavez losing control of the National Assembly presents, in my mind, a better opportunity for the opposition than whether there is a referendum or not. The road to a referendum may be muddled in legal tricks and appearances of legality. Losing control of the Assembly blocks Chavez’ ability to change the Supreme Court or impose the “muzzle law” on the media.
In any case, don’t get depressed reading this, get involved, do something!
At this point I cant post anymore, I have exceeded my storage limits….trying to expand it…..