Is Chavez’ backtracking on La Piedrita a sign he is losing in his polls?

February 9, 2009

While it is hard to know whether the No or the Si is ahead, reading the Government’s reactions may be telling us quite a bit.

At this point, we have had a very strange reversal of polls which went from NO way ahead, to SI slightly ahead back to No somewhat ahead, in less than a month, a rather unusual path, more so given the fact that some of these dramatic changes took place in the absence of any rea significant news.

What was clear was the aggressive attitude of the Government, including Chavez’ threat to gas the students with his “best gas”, the violent actions of the La Piedrita group against Marcel Granier as well as its statements that they were declaring a number of opposition figures as targets and the raid on the Mariperez synagogue.

And then all of a sudden, Chavez and his Government backtrack. First, they accuse the opposition of attacking the Mariperez synagogue, but today they order the capture a number of members of the Metropolitan police, investigative police and PoliCaracs, saying they are responsible for the raid on the synanogue. Funny, not only are none of these people related to the opposition, but they represent organizations in the hands of the Chavez Government for quite a few years.

Then Chavez calls into a meeting between the organizers of Saturday’s march and the Government and actually says that he will tie up his violent people and hopes the opposition will do the same. Of course, the march went on without a hitch for the first time since the students started marching against the amendment.

And then, the Head of La Piedrita, an armed and aggressive pro-Chavez group, gives a threatening interview after he and his group have been creating violence at will around Caracas and against opposition figures for months. (Reportedly the cops went to capture the Head of la Piedrita and were not even allowed to go in the area where La Piedrita operates).

La Piedrita goes around the city armed and without anybody stopping them. But something funny happens, Chavez actually calls for the jailing of Valentin Satana, the leader of la Piedrita, calling him a criminal and calls on long-time violent leader (and buddy) Lina Ron to separate herself from that group.

Strange, no?

Well, to me this simply suggests that the number are not looking pretty and the three weeks of aggressive behavior by Chavez have backfired and he is backtracking in the hope that he can change the results.

But can he?

Seems difficult by now. There is only five or six days left for the referendum and if Chavez’ image has been damaged, it would seem as if these last minute efforts will make little difference.

But to make matters worse, the La Piedrita group, now with even a webiste, responds to Chavez, asking him to jail Ravel, Manuel Rosales and a bunch of leading opposition figures and challenges Chavez to jail:

“The red, very red revolutionaries, the looting red shirts of our Mercales (markets), the red saboteours of our revolutionary missions, of our almost non-existent Barrio Adentro, the Directors of most of the State Institutions, the landowners who have killed  200 peasants who embraced the Land Bill, the assassins of Puente El LLaguno, the Generals, the corrupt officials within the Coche market, the officials that constantly block the people’s project, the Ministers that lie raising the flag of non-existent projects”

And then to close, La Piedrita declares that it is not pro-Chavez but always critical of the Government.

Thus, La Piedrita is claiming to be the true revolutionary, the true Chavez in all this, splitting with the President because of his about face and in some sense, not helping with Chavez’ strategy. Calling Chavez’ revolution “conservative”

So Chavez can no longer control the monster (s) that he created and this will likely affect the outcome of the vote next Sunday, as the public debate between La Piedrita and Chavez will likely dominate the news for the next few days and neutralize the effects Chavze was looking for in distancing himself with violent groups that support him.

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