Gaviria arrives, confrontation ahead?

October 28, 2002

As the Secretary General of the OAS arrived in Venezuela, there were clear signs that a confrontation was brewing in Venezuela. While the Government continued its attempt to disqualify the dissenting officers, three more Colonels joined them, including the cousin of who is considered one of the most powerful Generals that still supports Chavez, General Baduell. Baduell is considered to be the man behind Cahvez’ return after his brief overthrow in April.An additional National Guard Colonel also backed the dissenting officers publicly tonight.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel kept calling the dissenting officers gorillas and coupsters as well as criticizing last night protest against the highest ranking National Guard General who went to a Restaurant only a few blocks away from Plaza Altamira where the protest is taking place. Somehow, he was discovered and a few hundred people gathered around the Restaurant to protest.  In an interesting twist to the plot, one of the dissenting Generals and the Mayor of Chacao where Plaza Altamira is located had to go and help General Gutierrez out of the Restaurant. General Gutierrez is not particularly loved by the opposition as in September he made a statement telling protesting women “to go home where you belong”.

Meanwhile Cesar Gaviria began his difficult task of promoting a dialogue between the Government and the opposition. The Government did not help today as Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel immediately rejected any possibility of a referendum saying that it was not Constitutionally feasible. He challenged any Constitutional lawyer to debate the issue, a challenge that was immediately accepted by Gerardo Blyde, a Deputy from the Primero Justicia party, who is also a Constitutional lawyer. Blyde challenged Rangel to a debate Friday morning at 10 AM at a local Hotel. And it was clear that, barring any unforeseeble events, this is where the next and maybe final battle may be brewing. If and when the opposition shows up with 2 million signatures for the consultive referendum, any rejection of that possibility by the Government or the Supreme Court will definitely lead to a General strike, as described here last night.

While Gaviria was cautious about what he said the same could not be said of the representatives from the media who met with him. Those that made statements after the meeting expressed their pessimism that Gaviria can achieve anything (Surprise, surprise!) Essentially most of the said they believed the way out of the crisis was through an election, which the Government refuses to consider. Editor Rafael Poleo, said Gaviria’s position was excessively soft. Poleo said that one of the difficulties mentioned by Gaviria was “the stubbornness of Mr. Chavez who gets furious easily which appears to scare Mr. Gaviria“. Another reporter said Gaviria was too much of a diplomat for what we need here. The members of the Democratic Coordinating group also met with Mr. Gaviria and said when they came out that they told Mr. Gaviria in no uncertain terms that the dialogue has to go through establishing a date for elections, saying the deadline for a General strike was December 4th. ( If the two million signatures are handed in by Nov. 4th. the National Electoral Commission has thirty days to answer as to the validity of the referendum.)

Thus only Gaviria can make headway with the Chavez administration on the electoral issue, all roads lead to a confrontation over whether to hold or not a referendum. To us, this will the final one, if and when we get to it.

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