A new, refurbished, gentler Chavez. A new, reshuffled, more radical Cabinet

January 4, 2008

Thus, last night we got on the radio the “new”, revamped version of Hugo Chavez. A gentler, softer more lovable Hugo, talking about “not letting us get carried away with extremisms” or “we have to ally ourselves with the middle class” and ” we can not propose thesis that have failed everywhere else in the world, like that stuff about eliminating private property”. This was the same irate guy of a few weeks ago after his referendum loss talking about not changing one comma of his proposal (which limited private property rights) or saying he would have armed reservists to defend the revolution.

Of course, this is the same Hugo Chavez that has alienated the same middle class over the last nine years, insulting them even when he did not need it, calling them oligarchs, lackeys of the empire and telling them to leave the country. The problem is that Chavez’ popularity is going down fast as more and more problems surface ad some advisory team in the situational room of the Miraflores palace came up with the idea that we need a more softer and gentler Chavez to prop up his popularity.

The thing is, this is so much against Chavez’ nature that is not bound to last very much anyway, much like he gentler Chavez of April 2002, when Hugo Chavez sent the Army to violently stop a peaceful civilian protest. Upon his return, he was meek and apologetic and it lasted about two weeks before the old, mean, confrontational Chavez was back. We saw him again in the 2006 Presidential campaign with his “live” ads aimed at attracting the same middle class that he thinks he can regain at this time. That lovable Hugo probably lasted only the 60 seconds of the TV ads and pictures shown of him posing in blue cloths with a big smile.

But it is difficult to believe that Chavez will change, not only because of past experience or what General Uson, that knew him quite well, tells us about that impossibility, but because the new, improved and reshuffled Cabinet named yesterday, seems to point in exactly the opposite direction. Essentially, Chavez named a more militaristic and more radical Cabinet. It is mostly composed of ineffective members of the Chavista administration, past and present, reshuffled around. But in the end, those named today seem to have been picked more for their loyalty and radical ideas, that for the need for Hugo Chavez to start governing Venezuela after nine long years.

Some changes:

Jorge Giordani is out at the Ministry of Planning to be replaced by a hard core Marxist/Communist Haiman El Troudi, one of the “idea” men of XXist Century Socialism. El Troudi has not occupied any high positions in the Government but is one of those vague ideoliogists of the revolution who is always telling us how they are redoing things to make them work this time around and how XXIst. Century Socialism is different from the Soviet Union. Not a big improvement over Giordani, much more radical.

Rafael Isea is in at the Ministry Of Finance, Rodrigo Cabezas is out. Well, Cabezas had more knowledge on economic matters but he thought he could innovate, inventing some concepts that will one day come to haunt us. Isea is a former Lieutenant, with little economic experience and certainly does not have the scope of knowledge to design the type of plan needed Venezuela to contain inflation and avoid a significant crisis in the near future. Once again, a much more radical member of the Cabinet at that position.

Pedro Carreño is out, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin is in at the Ministry of the Interior and Justice. Jeez, we changed incompetent Carreño of Louis Vuitton fame, for super spy Rodriguez Chacin, another loyal former military officer who has always been Chavez’ liaison with the FARC and foreign leftists groups. Certainly a better “operator” for Chavez, more radical, more dangerous and a man of few scruples hat should be feared by all. He will use all of the powers of the police and intelligence forces against those that oppose the Government.

Jorge Rodriguez is out, Ramon Carrizales is in. One of the few places where a radical has been replaced by someone less radical. However, Carrizales has been ineffective in many positions, including his recent entourage in the Ministry of Housing where he failed miserably at achieving anything close to Chavez’ goal of building over 100,000 housing units (less than 35,000 were built). He was appointed to that Ministry after being in charge of the Minsitry of Infrastructure and finding the solution to rebuilding the Caracas La Guaira viaduct (Hire and pay the best civil engineering firm in the country and take the job away from the Government. Sort of the anti-revolution to solve the problem)

Finally Andres Izarra is back at the Minsitry of Information, replacing William Lara. Certainly Chavez brings someone much more capable, intelligent and conniving than Lara, who was an absolute lightweight But once again, this is a more radical appointment, certainly contradicting Chavez new and gentler image.

All in all, the new Cabinet seems to be as incapable at management the country with all its difficulties, but certainly more capable in terms of playing the political game with intelligence and malice.

Thus, expect the gentler Chavez to melt away fast, the tough political moves to begin in earnest and the problems of the country and the people to be set aside once more, in order to devote themselves to the politics of power and the solidifying the power of the weakening autocrat Hugo Chavez.

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