The tanker “Pilin Leon” has become the beacon of the general strike of Venezuelan ships. Since its crew went on strike ten days ago, the Government has been trying to take it over. Essentially, the crew would accept another certified crew, but most are on strike anyway. Last night, the Government tried to take it over, but it was clear that the new crew did not qualify and they disembarked. Today, the National Guard brought another crew on board in an effort by the Government to obtain a victory. This time the crew was made of Indians found through a headhunter. Unfortunately, the crew also did not meet the requirements because of their training, languages as well as regulations as to certifications in Venezuela. They have disembarked by now. Reportedly, the Venezuelan Navy refused to follow the orders of the President and thus the National Guard was used. The objection is not only political, but it is also a matter of sefaety as the Navy refused to do the type of commando operation that was performed twice in the last twenty four hours on the “Pilin Leon”
Archive for December 15th, 2002
Hugo Chavez, in today’s address to the Nation, called on the Armed Force NOT to recognize any decisions by civil Courts which contradict his decrees. As I said last night, these two decisions could become the “acid” test for those in the military that claim to be institutionalists. These two articles (1,2) have statements by lawyers blasting the Presdent for what he said. Note that Deputy Jose Luis Faria is a former Chavez supporter who split from Chavez almost a year ago. Clearly, Chavez believes he is above the laws and the Constitution, which we have known all along.
As Hugo Chavez continues to say that in Venezuela there is no strike but a conspiracy to oust him, approximately 1.5 million conspirators gathered in Caracas at a secret meeting held in the Autopista del Este, the Highway that crosses Caracas. The march was the largest so far, surpassing easily the one that ousted Chavez on April 11th. Keep in mind that the Metropolitan area of Caracas is estimated to have 3.5 million people at this time.
The atmosphere was absolutely festive as six separate marches from the East, West, North and South of the city converged at the Altamira Distributor of the eight lane highway that crosses the city from East to West. There were speeches, flags, songs, chants and the main theme was :”Hugo Chavez leave now”
Meanwhile, the Government continued to suffer setbacks on both the legal and the oil front. On the oil front, gasoline shortages became the norm in most of the country, Caracas seemed to be suffering the least, but no unleaded gas was to be found anywhere in the city. Meanwhile the President of PDVSA recognized that the company was at a standstill while roughly at the same time the Vice-President said things were going back to normal. Two gasoline trucks confiscated by the military overturned, one full of gas, the other one empty. The legal front was becoming interesting as two judgements by administartive Courts were not being followed by the Generals ordered to return private property in one case, and return all property of the Metropolitan Police to the Mayor in the other. Many high ranking Generals have been saying all along that they were “institutional”, a word that loses meaning when Generals disobey the rulings from civilian Courts. Watch this aspect of the crisis as it may become the clashing point between the Generals that still “support” the Chavez Presidency.
Below some pictures. Top row from the media, bottom rows, my own and Reuters.