Archive for November 30th, 2007

Hugo Chavez promises 43 more years of his rule as he turns his closing on the reform vote into a rally for a plebiscite

November 30, 2007
With promises of running Venezuela until 2050 if he lives that long, when he will be 95 years old, Hugo Chavez closed his rally
of the close of the campaign for referendum reform. And if some of his
supporters were having doubts about Chavez’ intentions, just daring to
say that revealed to a great extent he autocrat’s frame of mind.

And it was no longer
a matter of mine is bigger than yours. While I watched yesterday’s No
rally from the ground, I only saw this one from TV cameras, which
showed comparable rallies, which to me is quite a victory for an
opposition, which a month ago seemed destined to a huge defeat. Add to
this Chavez’ hundreds of buses, lots of money to buy attendance,
coercion and memos telling Government workers that it was mandatory to
attend and it was in fact surprising hat the NO rally seemed denser,
larger and more enthusiastic than today’s Si rally. In one radio
station a caller detailed how he went to work on Thursday at the notary
office somewhere in the East of Venezuela and found the office closed
and the bus waiting to take everyone to Caracas for the rally. He had
to go, but as he said he does not have to vote Si on Sunday after
leaving his sick son alone for a day and a half without recourse.

And throughout his speech Chávez kept bringing back the subject
to the only terrain where he can hope to win: A vote for No is a vote
against him, a vote for No is treason, a vote for No is a vote for Bush
and a vote for NO and a vote for NO was a vote to turn Venezuela into a
colony of the United States.

And there were
also threats of grabbing his rifle again if the opposition refused to
recognize his victory quoting polls that nobody has seen in which he
supposedly has a commanding 10-15 point lead.

was absolutely no content about the reform other than the pitiful
claims that somehow concentrating power on him gives more power to the
people. Chavez made one last attempt to turn the vote into a plebiscite on his rule, but he may have promised too many more years for people’s comfort. There was also the threat to cut off the US form oil supplies
if the opposition did not recognize the Si victory on Monday and he
claimed he would recognize the victory of the No if it happened,
apparently in reference to his former wife’s accusations that he would
have a difficult time accepting it.

And his
claim that he could be in power until 2050 illustrated better than
anything the autocrat’s frame of mind, why he wants the power, he needs
the reform and he deserves to be trusted. Nothing about the goals of
the reform and all about Chavez. Trust him, after nine years maybe he
has found the way, even if all he has for it is a name: XXIst. Century

In the end, the autocrat seemed to
be unraveling as he told his public how they are trying to assassinate
him, get rid of him, eh is the only hope, all international leaders
hate him because he is…Hugo Chavez.

All in all,
the speech seemed aimed at those already committed towards voting for
the Si and it is hard to believe it would convince any of the former
Chavistas who are having doubts about voting for the reform. But what
do I know, I never understood why they voted for him before…

A perverse, tragic and unending poker game in Latin America

November 30, 2007

I always found
the perverse ballet between Chavez and Uribe surrounding the hostage
negotiations to be fascinating. Here are two people who deal with each
other only because they have to but have very different goals,
accepting each other in order to achieve their own goals. The mystery
was why Uribe agreed to Chavez’ mediation. The third party, the FARC,
was tougher to figure out: What did the FARC want? It could be money;
it could be the ability to use Venezuelan territory at will, it could
be looking to even take advantge of the Bolivarian revolution to expand
its role in wealthier confines, the only question was why they did not
try  to help Chávez more along the way.
was clearly looking for fame. What else is new? That is what he strives
for, the limelight, the spotlight, the center of attention. He was
either looking for some sort of big impact before the December
referendum or trying to get his name nominated for the Nobel Peace
Uribe on the other hand was in my
opinion trying to see if the movements and logistics required by the
FARC to give Chávez evidence or more importantly, release the proof of
life, would force the FARC to commit an error and capture some of them.
Clearly, Uribe wished he would actually catch someone big in the
The FARC on the other hand have proven
to have some sort of hidden agenda, proving what I always believed,
that while Chávez has few scruples or regards for human rights, he is
as we say in Spanish “a breast feeding baby” compared to the FARC
leaders. Simply look at the cruelty in the way they hold hostages, kill
people and make the lives of the hostages and their families miserable
for years. They are truly cruel and terrorists and would not hesitate
to overrun Chavez if they could.
But the
question remains: Why didn’t the FARC deliver the required poof of life
in time? If the videos and pictures date as far back as October 23d.
why wasn’t at least part of it delivered to Chavez’ hands in time for
his visit to France? Allow Chavez to have some success but keep him on
a leash. Was there something Chavez asked but did not deliver? Maybe
the FARC are simply too independent to be impressed by the leader of
the Bolivarian revolution, even if they like to live off his wealth.
the end we will never know. Chavez got desperate and tried to bypass
the rules. Uribe broke up with him and suddenly (or coincidentally, who
knows?) they capture some underlings of the FARC with the material
Chávez wanted. To Uribe and Sarcozy, Chavez mediation seems to be over,
he had his time, he had his opportunity, but did not deliver and it has
been proven the FARC was toying with him. Thus, now Uribe and Sarcozy
can move forward on their own and deal with each other directly.
it is clear to me Uribe was toying with Chavez and his naïve believe
that his own interests and those of the FARC were aligned, I am not yet
sure what hand the FARC was playing or even trying to play in all this.
In the end, it is the individuals and their
families that are hurt by all of this, from the politicking to the
games, a sad game of political poker in which human beings, from Ingrid
Betancourt on down, are simply incidental figures to the ideological
and geopolitical games that mean little to the average citizen of Latin
America and their daily lives. It is in some sense part of the tragic
magic realism that seems to dominate our lives in the region, in the
name of ideologies while our people go hungry and without rights.
It is a perverse, tragic and unending poker game.

Video by the Human Rights Foundation

November 30, 2007

Excellent video on human rights in Venezuela by the Human Rights Foundation. I do hope that one of the Caracas Nine becomes the tens of thousands of victims of homicide due to the negligence and indifference to the right to life of the Chavez Government.