Everyone got gassed today, negotiations take a break

January 14, 2003


Today, chavistas got tear gas in Maracaibo without a bullet being fired by the chavistas, essentially a first. This is excessive use of force since the march was peaceful and is a repressive act. In Caracas leaders of COPEI were presenting a flower arrangement to Simon Bolivar at the square that bears his name when they were attacked by a group of pro-Chavez supporters. The National Guard had to use tear gas, one of the leaders of COPEI was injured and the flower arrangement was destroyed by the President’s supporters. Meanwhile in the State of Barinas, where Chavez is from, and the Governor of which is Chavez’ father, the State Legislature elected its leadership for the year and the opposition won, even in his own state Chavez is losing now.


I get discouraged by the pace of the negotiations being brokered between the Democratic Coordinator and the Government by OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria. The tension is so high, the violence so frequent that I feel a sense of urgency before we may destroy the country and each other. So, I get home, wait for Gaviria’s nightly report and he says tonight the negotiations are “off” until Thursday. There is a good reason, the inauguration of President Gutierrez in Ecuador, but somehow it feels we can not wait another day. Hopefully, the Group of Friends proposed by the U.S. and Brazil will meet there and they will put the pressure on everyone to solve the crisis. Somehow it seems negotiations is the only way out, Gaviria has seemed more optimistic lately, but maybe I am trying to read too much into it. Another sign that something may be happening was an interview tonight by COPEI’s Eduardo Fernandez, who said that Hugo Chavez, whom he had never met, invited him and some Bishops to the Presidential Palace on Saturday to ask him what they though about the current crisis and how to solve it. I certainly hope something is up!

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