Chavez’ increasing troubles at home and abroad

May 29, 2006

This weekend Hugo Chavez continued intervening in the Peruvian election, in violation of the OAS Interamerican charter, going as far as calling Alan Garcia a thief, which is probably true, but curiously saying little about Ollanta Humala whose curriculum is as bad as Garcia’s. But he really stepped over the line calling President Toledo a traitor and a madman. He seems to be doing that daily these days.

But if anyone seems to be losing it is Chavez himself. Despite the oil windfall, he has little to show in Venezuela beyond his promises. He travels abroad promising the world and giving away Venezuela’s money as protests increase at home. But he seems not to care. Students at ULA and other universities continued their protests today over electoral autonomy, while protests shutdown the streets in Caracas near CONAVI, the housing institute and charges and countercharges of corruption continue to fly around between Government figures.

But Chavez is removed from all of this, as he has been outside of Venezuela two thirds of the days in the month of May, going as far as promising to “save the world”, giving away US$ 1.5 billion to Bolivia, more than CITGO originally cost in what has always been called an act against the country’s sovereignty, except we still own CITGO and it is worth much more. So much for defending sovereignty! It is unclear if Venezuela will get anything out of these US$ 1.5 billion, except some solidarity out of that country’s leader, who may not be in power for long, if the history of that country is any guide.

But Chavez has found a tough enemy in Ala Garcia and even in lame duck Toledo, who clearly is not going to go down without a fight. Today Toledo called on the OAS to act on Chavez’ intromission in Peruvian affairs, saying the organization can not wash its hands on this problem. For the OAS this represents a problem, it does not want to get on Chavez’ nerves by acting, but it damages the reputation of the institution when such a fragrant violation of its charter is ignored.

Meanwhile, Chavez the madman, proposes a new “Bolivarian Andean” Community after destroying the previous one, without asking his countrymen or Cabinet about it. It was just a whim. But as Rafael Poleo said in his “Pendulo” column last week, Chavez gave a press conference in which he basically defined his sphere of influence in South America. The problem is that if Garcia wins, the Chavez’ new community might be smaller than Chavez wants or even smaller than the previous one. Colombia is unlikely to go with it; neither will Peru if Garcia wins, leaving Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia to participate in this novel union. But this is too small for the absentee landlord of Venezuela. What will he do then? Poleo thinks that Chavez will include Argentina and Paraguay, basically leaving Peru, Colombia and Brazil outside of his loop.

This may seem like a losing proposition for anyone, but that is not how Chavez thinks. He is frustrated by his lack of accomplishments at home. He controls the country, but he has little to show in the last seven years despite the huge oil windfall. He knows the ten million votes in December is very far from reality, even manipulating the vote. So his personal project is more important than the local one. He is the new Simon Bolivar, the new integrator; even if he acts like a disintegrator in the short time since his project was formally aired.

The problem is that he has gained some powerful enemies on the way. Lula, Fox and now Toledo have been irked by Chavez to the point that they have gone on the offensive against him. When Toledo says that he will remain active in Latin American politics in order to “promote and preserve” democracy, the message seem to be very clear: He is ready to go around lobbying against Chavez’ project in his spare time. Lula talks softly, but Petrobras is wielding a big stick. Uribe can now claim a huge mandate, which clearly does not include Chavez in the plans.

The problem is that life for Chavez is also getting tougher at home. The whole point about having a primary is precisely that the opposition candidates can openly make these points. Meanwhile, corruption is internally eroding the revolution as factions within the Government fight to preserve or even gain more territory. People protest daily, most of them you don’t even read it in the news.

If I were Chavez I would leave my international ambitions aside for a while and concentrate on controlling the local herd. I hope he doesn’t! This looks like it may unravel for him quite fast at the rate it ahs been going


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