Chavez keeps opposition off balance by becoming more radical as his popularity drops

August 5, 2008

I must confess I was actually quite positive about the
opposition today and wanted to transmit that in this post when I thought about
writing about the fact that the opposition
has agreed
to four more candidates for Governor giving it a total of 17 out
of 24 States with a unified opposition candidate, which is actually quite good giving that
in two of them (Táchira and Miranda) the opposition was waiting to find out if
the Supreme Court would rule in favor of those disqualified by the Comptroller
from running for office.

Because while the process has been more traumatic that in
had to be, you all know I believe primaries would have made it much simpler, it
is indeed an achievement for such a heterogeneous group of politicians to have
reached this point, a point that I thought they may not reach by this week, but
rather by the attrition of some candidates before the final vote on November
23d. Remarkably, it is a better job than Chavez’ PSUV and cohorts, even if they
had their staged primaries, but still only have a unified candidate in eleven

But then the Venezuelan Supreme Court came
atoday nd declared that the Comptroller can indeed ban any candidate he
wishes, putting in another nail on the already crucified Venezuelan democracy.
I will not again go into the illegality of this or why it only serves Chavez’
purposes, but the Venezuelan Government has definitely become an outlaw
Government in terms of Inter-American Justice, even if this may be largely
irrelevant. But it is no longer a matter of illegality, the Venezuelan
Supreme Curt has now ratified a system by which a man appointed by the National
Assembly, the Comptroller, can simply ban anyone, even Hugo Chavez from running
for office. Starting today, the Comptroller is the second most important man in
the Republic starting today after the President. Everyone, including Chavez has to suck up to him
just in case.

Because in the end, in a country where ethics and morals
have gone by the wayside, I am sure he can be bought. It is just a matter of

In the end, I thought that the Supreme Court would not do
what it did, not because it had a sense of legality or justice, but simply
because Chavez does not gain much politically by this incredible decision,
which in the end affects significantly two races for Governor and that of Mayor
for the Metropolitan Area of Caracas. In the end, much like last year’s decision
to shut down Radio Caracas Television, all this sentence will do is stir up the
opposition and the student movement at a time of Chavez’ lower popularity.

But then one thinks about the events of the last week, from
the nationalization of Banco de Venezuela, to the eleventh hour approval of 26 Bills that allow Chavez to grab more power and legislate what the population rejected last year,
to the Supreme Court decision and there is only one conclusion you can reach:
Chavez has decided to radicalize the process as the only way to prop up his
popularity in the face of the regional elections.

While I personally believe he may have problems handling all
of these conflicts at once, that is not how Hugo Chavez thinks. Except for last
year’s referendum, he has always come out ahead of events that polarized the
population and motivated his supporters. This appears to be his new strategy to
revive the triumphs of the past.

And it may not be as harebrained as you may think. The November
regional elections may be considered by the opposition to be a victory if it
can win 8 Governorships, but Chavez will claim victory up to half of the
Governorships of the country, something that the opposition is unlikely to

Thus, I can envision the opposition in November celebrating
eight or nine Governorships representing 65% of the country’s population, while
Chavez goes on TV the same night to hail his victory in 63% of the states country.
They both will be right, but Chavez will make use of all of the power and
wealth of the State to convince the people and the world that this was
certainly the case and the only victor was Hugo Chavez.

Because despite his defeat in the November referendum,
Chavez has continued to act as it had not happened. He has acted like the
winner, nationalizing companies, reforming bills and traveling around the world
selling his leadership.And approving Bills in secrecy.

Unfortunately for us, the opposition has not provided a
coherent front, even with today’s agreement on the 17 unified candidates to counterbalance
Chavez. While he backed down on the “Sapo” bill and the curriculum, the 26
Bills approved on the expiration of the Enabling Bill show he is no democrat
and has no remorse about trampling the rules of democracy.

And while he will have to deal with high inflation levels,
which are having a strong impact on the population, it would not surprise me if
Chavez actually throws one more surprise into the ring in the next few weeks,
nationalizing one or more of the most significant food distribution companies
in the country (Polar?), by blaming shortages or high prices on them.

After all, he now has the legal instrument to do it,
whenever he wishes and without any immediate compensation. It is just a matter of sovereignty and it’s the law, no matter how it came about. Such expropriations have clearly
not been unpopular in the past. And announcing them would once again catch the
opposition off base and off balance and much like the twenty-six Enabling Bills or today’s
decision by the Supreme Court, it would simply throw an additional monkey wrench,
if any, on whatever plans or strategy the opposition may have in store to
confront Chavez. Distracting it once again from the problem at hand, that
Venezuela is being run by an outlaw autocrat who controls all the powers and
the purse strings without any scruples.

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