Only Hugo Chavez is allowed to stage a coup in Venezuela

August 15, 2009

(Este post en español aquí)


For at least seven of the last ten years, universities have represented the biggest frustration for Hugo Chavez. Except for some small victories during his first three years in power, Venezuelan universities whose authorities are elected in elections, have rejected Hugo Chavez over and over.

And it is getting worse. Chavista backed candidates seem to get fewer votes in elections for either authorities or student body leaders. Who can forget the new President of the Central Bank, Nelson Merentes, getting whipped when he ran for the only office he ever aspired to as President (Rector) of Universidad Central de Venezuela? He did not even manage to go to the second round, coming in third of the two possible candidates that went to the second round and he was the only one that represented Chavismo.

And university elections are fairly open affairs, Professors vote and so do students and in some cases even employees. But it does not matter Chavismo loses time after time.

Which in the end is the sole driver behind the recently and unconstitutionally approved Educational Law. Sure they took advantage of it to impose more control over the educational system, but the goal, the main driver was simple: take control of the only place where ideas can be discussed freely in Venezuela, the only institution where you can criticize someone without being censored, ostracized or banished, no matter which side you are on: The Venezuelan truly autonomous universities.

And despite the lack of transparency in the way the law was approved, how the ultimate end was hidden behind the noise, the treachery and the under the table approval, this just happens to be Hugo Chavez’ latest coup.

Because anytime the opposition says or does anything the Government in unison accuses of staging a coup, in a country where it is clearly Hugo Chavez the only person allowed to stage one. And the Venezuelan President does not hide it, he openly says it:

“Chavez calls on to take apart the structures of power in the universities…we should not recognize any authority which does not originate in a legitimate process”

Funny, I don’t recall any of the pro-Chavez candidates ever saying that they were participating or defeated in an illegitimate process. They all participated and graciously acknowledged they had lost. What else can you say when the opposite side gets over 80% of the votes as has recurrently happened in all the elections in Venezuelan universities?

The difference is that Chavez has no scruples whatsoever to violate the law and the Constitution and lie in the process. He is the Master Coupster, starting in 1992 (twice), the 1999 referendum, the “Congresillo” in 2000, the PDVSA trap (2002), the 2004 referendum, the 2008 enabling Bill, the shutdown of RCTV and radio stations and this year’s referendum (among others). Chavez has staged all these armed an unarmed coups, no scruples, whatever it takes and the new Education Law is just the last one.

It’s just the way of Dictators and the doublespeak of fascists. The world has seen it before.

29 Responses to “Only Hugo Chavez is allowed to stage a coup in Venezuela”

  1. GWEH Says:

    …and it was Caldera and his son (among others) who led the 11A conspiracy against Chavez! They were both up to their necks in it yet their names have never really been mentioned publicly (or maybe they have). How could Chavez convict the man who pardoned him? To convict Caldera you have to get to the bottom of what happened on 11A and we all know Chavez does not want that for he’s guiltier than all of conspiring against Venezuelans with blood on his hands.

  2. FC Says:

    “Hope Caldera lives to be 150!”

    After so many false alarms, I’m beginning to think he’ll live to 150. It’s like everybody’s expecting him to croak any minute now…

  3. moctavio Says:

    Easy, he was jailed to be tried, he could have been released while being tried, but was not and Caldera pardoned hm off before he came to trial. Never guilty, as good as innocent, clean slate! as easy as that. Hope Caldera lives to be 150!

  4. FC Says:

    “No, you have to be convicted, Chavez never was, he was pardoned.”

    That’s intriguing, how do you spend time in jail without a conviction? Also I didn’t realize a pardon cleaned your slate.

  5. Bilis Negra Says:

    Bill: I wrote earlier to the editors of _The Chronicle_ Their neglect is unacceptable.

    From my experience, most scholars in the US (there’s a few honorable exceptions) either 1) have no clue whatsoever of what is going on, 2) don’t give a damn despite their ‘progressive’ ideals, or 3) still (10 years after!) think that the Lieutenant Colonel is the savior of Latin America

  6. Robert Says:

    OT question. Venezuela government looks to change payment terms at PetroCaribe. There is some “news” floating around the internet that some members have not fulfilled the current deferred payment terms. Is PetroCaribe disintegrating?

  7. Bill Says:

    The Chronicle of Higher Ed has NOTHING on this. When there were moves to enact an “Academic Bill of Rights” by legislatures (something even it’s author insists that he never intended to have happen, and he opposes the government doing it since it needed, he claims, to have the schools and faculty on board first middle and last) we they tossed fits. If W or even O were to try this, they’d be rightfully up in arms. When Chavez does it… *cricket sounds*

    I agree that the universities will resist with what little they can but with marginal solidarity from colleagues abroad. They may take to the streets, or create a line between college buildings and his shocktroops, but Chavez has guns and water cannons and the “law” (that always revolves around him) on his side. What are the universities going to do? Fine his library books?

  8. moctavio Says:

    No, you have to be convicted, Chavez never was, he was pardoned.

  9. FC Says:


    That’s an excellent point. If I remember correctly, one big point of this law was because… paradoxically the man actually had support for a presidential bid in the mid 60’s. I mean, REALLY!

  10. Gringo Says:

    And I will disagree with you FC, and mention that Perez Jimenez did not die in his sleep.

    While he didn’t die in his sleep as President , his death was from natural causes. Interesting that the Wikipedia on him says “A quick law was passed whereby former prisoners were excluded from participating in the governmental process.” Apparently that law had been repealed by the time that Thugo came around.

  11. GWEH Says:

    Reportedly, the FARC had tried to shoot down Uribe’s plane with an AT4 of Venezuelan origin.

    According to this article in SEMANA (Colombia), the FARC attempted to hit Uribe’s presidential aircraft with an AT4 on October 21, 2003. Authorities reportedly retrieved a second launcher that had not been fired. Serial numbers from these weapons, with assistance from the ATF in the US, were then used to identify them as having been sold by Swedish manufacturer to Venezuela. Scroll down for full article and pictures.

  12. FC Says:

    I’ll be happy to be proved wrong Roberto. But the smart money has been on Chavez time and time again. Even if he doesn’t accomplish it now, if it takes him 3, 5 or 8 years, he’s going to slowly squeeze.

    “The thing is, is that while many may think that our society is largely composed of sheep, there comes a time when the fed up -o- meter rises, and then watch out.”

    I’ve heard this song since 2002…I’m still waiting for the sheep to transform…Maybe the problem is they’re not sheep, they’re frogs and don’t understand they’re being slowly boiled to death…

    The people seem to rise only when their perks seem to be threatened. The Caracazo detonated over an increase in fuel prices (of course it’s much more complicated than that), but so far civil rights and democratic principles don’t seem to inspire people. When RCTV was first threatened with closure I distinctly remember some who’s first reaction was: Y MI NOVELA? geeez…

  13. Roberto Says:

    And I will disagree with you FC, and mention that Perez Jimenez did not die in his sleep.

    The thing is, is that while many may think that our society is largely composed of sheep, there comes a time when the fed up -o- meter rises, and then watch out.

    I would wager that even students who are “chavista light” will fight to keep autonomy in the University system.

    There’s no question Chavez has accelerated again, and this time he’s not lifting the pedal as soon as other times. He may think he’s got it, but I think he’s carrying a wee bit too much understeer this time around.

    Civil disobedience will begin to mount, and just wait until school starts……

  14. Kepler Says:

    My father was professor at the Universidad de Carabobo. He died before Hugo came to power. I remember how he told us about the AD/copei/others discussions. My mom told me he was almost passed for selection even if he had better degrees, better qualifications and so on but he was not a copeyano, as the other main candidate for the post, but other teachers supported him and finally the right thing was decided. Still, it was never easy as he always hated to get along political lines.

    There are problems even in Germany and Belgium universities, where I had been studying or working. Still, the problems in Venezuela with politics interfering have been particularly big. I am sure other professors were and are not as lucky as my dad with getting support for being good and others who have been lucky despite not being good just because of the friends they had in political places within the universities.

    Now, if Hugo’s wishes are implemented the whole thing will worsen beyond repair. Really: it would take generations to fix it.

    So, I understand Miguel’s point fully.

    Still, I am sad, deeply sad, for the fact Venezuelan professors and students do not counter-attack with the real issue: Venezuela’s basic schools are by far the worst in Latin America.
    They want to live in a bubble but that is not possible anymore.

    Demand things that would put the majority of Venezuelans with children – not just those whose children are in private schools – on our side.
    Demand quality, demand salaries for the basic school teachers that are in a ratio to “socialist” deputies that is not less social than that in such countries as Switzerland, Netherlands, canada or Germany.
    Tell people chavismo is trying to control universities for his power, but what he really should do is produce a free high-quality basic education system that would make pupils as likely to do as good as those coming from private schools for entrance to universities.

    You don’t fix the problems of basic schools at university level.

    Propose laws that take away politics from universities.

    Be pro-active and think on the rest of society. Yes, universities should be independent, but they by all means need to show they have some basic proposals for Venezuela’s education as a whole. If you, university people in Venezuela, don’t do it, who will?

  15. FC Says:

    “FC, what you are saying is what Chavez wants but I don’t think this will happen. He will not be able to do it.”

    And a lot of people said Chavez would not be able to resist the Oil Strike, and he did. A lot of people said he wouldn’t win the referendum, and he did, a lot of people said he wouldn’t close RCTV, and he did. A lot of people said he wouldn’t be able to change the constitution (he even suffered a setback) and he did. And now, you’re saying Chavez won’t be able to control the universities, and of course, he will.

    Enough to suppress the dissent he finds so bothersome, not the young minds he doesn’t really care about.

    “IMHO the Universities will resist.”

    I don’t doubt they will resist, but it’s meaningless, The Oil workers resisted. The political parties resisted. RCTV resisted.

    Chavez will fall only when he’s betrayed from within or his movement finally exhausts itself and the people get so fed up with him they will overthrow him. Not willing to bet money on it though, after all, Gomez died in his sleep.

  16. Roger Says:

    In ten years Chavez has not been able to win over the University students or any group of students for that matter. If he can’t get the young to embrace his “Brave New World” he and it have no future as a social movement. Of course its hard to call corruption a social movement.

  17. bruni Says:

    FC, what you are saying is what Chavez wants but I don’t think this will happen. He will not be able to do it.

    IMHO the Universities will resist.

  18. moctavio Says:

    Of course, he will change the rules, put his people in place and proceed. At IVIC even the prize for the best student went to a political choice. The ignorant and mediocre will run the universities. On when to leave, it is not easy. Chavez had luck in 04 with oil rising, he had luck with the rise last year, family is here, not all can leave. Not easy at all.

  19. FC Says:

    “Now, I still feel that he will not be able to win over the Universities. I don’t know how, but it will not happen.”

    It’s not about “winning” over the universities. Chavez could care less about convincing the student population that his way is the right way, he has had enough. He’s not going to try to do it from the inside, he’s going to steamroll his way through the universities, he will replace all the deans and important professors with politically correct representatives. The curricula will be changed to be “social” and “bolivarian”, the rules changed so any and all dissent is punished with expulsion and worse. What happened at IDEA and IVIC will be systematically applied to all the universities. You’ll remember me when you see it happen.

  20. FC Says:

    “If we lose that, time to leave…sadly.”

    Time to leave was in 2002, that was the last time there was a significant power capable of removing Chavez precisely because of his constitutional violations: the military. When he came back he learned his lesson and purged the military. A lot of my friends called it and they were right. All those friends packed their bags in 2002 because they saw the writing on the wall.

  21. bruni Says:

    I was about to write the same Miguel. The education law is all about the Universities.

    Here’s an old 2007 post

    Now, I still feel that he will not be able to win over the Universities. I don’t know how, but it will not happen.

  22. Yes, it’s disturbing. I am going to go abroad, still looking for something, but this is unbearable.. And things will get worse.

  23. moctavio Says:

    This is a dictatorship. If Chavista authorities take over universities, even if you don’t say anything you will be fired if you are perceived to be against the process. In the RCTV closing and now with the Education Law, it is the universities and the students who have been at the forefront of protests and dissent. If we lose that, time to leave…sadly.

  24. moctavio Says:

    I know it is not peachy, but there has been wholesale political cleansing elsewhere and even at IVIC and IDEA you are now fired for your political ideas, Central Bank is also gone. It is better and people are still willing to defend their ideas, everywhere else, forget it!

  25. Well, they tried hard to do it. I was on the verge of “un expediente”. And if they did not, it was because I had friends in places. otherwise, things would have been very different.

    The university is not as peachy as you make it sound, unfortunately, even if it is Switzerland compared to the rest of the country in matters of freedom of speech.

  26. moctavio Says:

    But you are still there. In other places, even if you oppose quietly you are removed.

  27. deananash Says:

    The problems in Venezuela now go far beyond Chavez. The problem is deeply rooted in a large segment of the Venezuelan population. Specifically, the “something for nothing” and “what’s in it for me” viruses.

    So even were Venezuela to have a change of government, (any change), the future is bleak.

  28. And, BTW, these days, I prefer to be silent. That was a lot of stress for the results that we got.

    But I still sing what I write with my full name.

  29. “the only institution where you can criticize someone without being censored, ostracized or banished, no matter which side you are on: The Venezuelan truly autonomous universities.”

    Mind you, Miguel, that’s not so true.
    You can get in trouble if you criticize the wrong people in a way they do not like. I was about to be expelled, because I dared to criticize my dean during her campaign to become provost in the ULA.

    They tried to accuse me of “stealing” material, as me and a friend grabbed a fire extinguisher and stopped some jerks burning tires across the street. We returned the extinguisher, but when I started to bother them, tried to use the thing against me.

    I know similar cases that happen all the time, sadly. Our universities are very good in sciences and they have a culture of free discussion, but they are not as good in matters of freedom of speech, even if they are much better than the rest of the Venezuelan society.

    OTOH: When Efrén Andrade was minister of agriculture, he came to our building to deliver a presentation, and I raised and asked him why he had not returned some books to the library. Nothing happened to me besides some people looking me in a not very nice way. Had I done that elsewhere, I think the result had been very different.

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