Something is in the air and I like it!

June 23, 2004

This afternoon I actually sat down and read the headlines of the newspapers during the whole time I was away. This may sound like masochism to many of you, but I actually think it is the only way of understanding better what may happen in the near future. I don’t want to bore you with what happened since I left, but some things never cease to amaze me, such as the people caught forging the results of the signature ratification process inside the CNE or the fact that the two former Ministers of Finance accused of misuse of funds in the FIEM case are now in charge of the PDVSA fund or the handing over of funds from PDVSA to the Government directly in violation of the Central Bank law which states that PDVSA is obligated to sell all of its dollars directly to the Central Bank. But clearly, anything is possible in the Vth. Republic.

Meanwhile, evidence seems to be mounting that the members of the paramilitary force caught in the outskirts of Caracas a month and a half ago, were indeed part of a Government sponsored plan to create some sort of diversion and blame the opposition. What makes this case even more outrageous is that the Minister of the Interior publicly asks for proofs that the Government knew about it, on the same day that reporter Patricia Poleo publishes a copy of the official letter from the immigration department authorizing the members of the paramilitary force to enter the country. The Minister’s response? Easy, he wants the original letter to be handed over, not a copy, in order to accept that there is proof. Elementary Mr. Watson, or is it Mr. Rincon, if it is a copy it proves nothing, you now need the original so as to make the job of squealers even more difficult, why not a video then?


In more recent news, the National Assembly removes, illegally, a Supreme Court Justice for deciding against the Government, while the “immoral” council decides to investigate the Justices from the Electoral Hall for ruling against Chavismo. The more things change the more they stay the same in the Bolivarian Republic. This immoral decision was reached without hearing the accused, giving a new meaning to the interpretation of due process by these sad clowns of the Vth. Republic.


Meanwhile, the Head of the Exchange control Office announces that he will push the parallel market rate down below Bs. 2,500. Of course, this rate is illegal, this market does not exist and it is irrelevant for economic activity, according to other Government officials. What makes this interesting is that the Head of the Exchange control Office is all of a sudden in charge of monetary policy, while the Central Bank is ignored by the Government. The truth is that corruption appears to be the main reason why the parallel market rate is dropping, but that is another whole story.


Meanwhile former Ambassador Milos Alcalay, who worked in the Foreign Service for 35 years, is denied his pension just because…Such is the new justice of the Vth. Republic. In a similar case, the Venezuelan Supreme Court rules that oil workers enjoy tenure, but obviously a decision by the Supreme Court means nothing in this glorious Government and the 18,000 oil workers illegally fired two years ago will have to wait another day, or month or decade before their rights are recognized and restored.


Meanwhile, Chavistas accuse their own Minister of Energy of corruption and nepotism, something which has been known for over a year, after all, and what do you call it when half your family starts working for the oil industry after you are named Minister? Or when you personally decide contracts with foreign companies without following the procedures established by law? When Chavez was a candidate the few cases in which this happened became his whole campaign, these days this is a way of life in this parody of a Government. The solution to the accusations was simple: remove the Deputy making the accusations from his position as Chairman of the Oil and Energy committee of the National Assembly. This was called fascism in the old days, but now it is called patriotism.


But something is definitely up. Chavez meets with arch-enemy Cisneros in the presence of Jimmy Carter. Corruption charges that had been known for months become daily accusations. The Government is no longer offering a united front. Baduell says the military will respect the results of the referendum and expresses his disapproval of the way the new military promotions are being handled. The polls favor the opposition; the approval rating for the Democratic Coordinator is 50% with political parties a distant second with 13%. Oh yes, something is changing, something is up and the Chavistas don’t like it, but I do.

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