Summary on Venezuela

Enrique ter Horst es un prominente abogado venezolano, quien estuvo en El Salvador como jefe de misión de ONUSAL de abril April 1994 hasta September 1995. Emite frecuentemente su "Summary on Venezuela" a la comunidad internacional, analizando la situación polˆtica y constitucional de su país.

                                                                                                                       Caracas, 14 May 2012

            President Chávez implored the Almighty, at a Catholic ceremony in Barinas with his family, to “…give me life. Let it be a flaming life, a painful life, I don’t care. Give me your crown, Christ. Give it to me, I will bleed, give me your cross, a hundred crosses, I shall carry them, but give me life. Don’t take me yet, give me your thorns, give me your blood, as I am prepared to carry it, but with life.”  (“Dame vida. Que sea vida llameante, vida dolorosa, no me importa. Dame tu corona, Cristo. Dámela que yo sangro, dame tu cruz, cien cruces, que yo las llevo, pero dame vida. No me lleves todavía, dame tus espinas, dame tu sangre, que yo estoy dispuesto a llevarla, pero con vida.”). This happened on his return on 4 April from the second round of radiotherapy in Havana, and after having reportedly undergone a second surgery to remove a malignant tumor in his colon.

Since then he has travelled three more times to Cuba to continue his recovery, staying there for longer periods each time. In his farewell speech before returning to Cuba on Monday 30 April he had another emotional moment in which his voice also broke. Chávez returned from Cuba last Friday the 11th, descending from the plane walking, and saying that he had his radiotherapy and that he was feeling well. As he lately always wears the same blue and white sports jacket one never knows if the picture or the video was taken on the date the official news agency says it was. This last time in Cuba he apparently was only resting, his Cuban doctors supposedly heeding the advice of his Brazilian and Spanish physicians to stop the radiotherapy, as it appeared to have caused damage to his pelvis. The daily El Nuevo Pais, usually well informed, reported last Monday that the President was under permanent, deep sedation, as the pain had become unbearable. Since 1 January the President has signed 107 decrees in Havana, 55% of a total of 194, says the daily El Nacional.
 The information on the state of the President’s health, his whereabouts, and the views of his doctors is tweeted, sometimes blow by blow, by Nelson Bocaranda, a widely read columnist of El Universal, the second largest Venezuelan daily, and by a certain Dr. Marquina, a physician in Florida. Their tweets, although not identical, are coherent (or at least not contradictory), very much up to date, particularly in the case of Marquina, and have come to be accepted as reliable by those following them, as facts often bear out the steady stream of information they provide. It also leads one to think that their source(s) include a well-placed intelligence service, but which one? The CIA or the Cuban G-2? The Spaniards, the Colombians, the Brazilians? 

Before returning to Cuba on Monday 30 April after visiting Venezuela for five days (after having remained in Cuba for 11 days), Chávez mandated the recently established Council of State foreseen in article 251 of the Constitution as “the highest consultative body of the Government and the National Public Administration”, to study the withdrawal of Venezuela from the Inter American Commission of Human Rights. The Council of State had been unconstitutionally established by Chávez last 15 February, in “exercise” of the power vested in him by the last Enabling Law. In case of the unlikely withdrawal - a year after the official notice has been lodged with the office of the OAS Secretary-General (who knows who will be the President of Venezuela then?), Venezuelans will still be able to present their cases individually to the Commission. The PSUV-controlled National Assembly almost immediately endorsed the President’s proposal to withdraw from the IACHR. Establishing the Council of State and appointing its members also protects political stability and the PSUV’s hold on power in case of Chávez’s “absolute absence”, as the Constitution states, and it also avoids formally choosing a person to succeed Chávez.

The recently appointed members of the Council of State, to be chaired by Vice-President Jaua, are José  Vicente Rangel, a former Vice President and Minister of Defense, Roy Chaderton, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and now Ambassador to the OAS, both members of the long extinct “Mesa de Dialogo” organized by the OAS, in which they excelled as cynical procrastinators, German  Mundarain, a former chavista Human Rights Ombudsman, Luis Britto Garcia, a respected public finance professor and writer who is also a dogmatic Marxist close to Cuba, and Adm. (retired) Carlos Giacopini. Constitutionally they are all presidential appointments, but they have not necessarily been personally chosen by President Chávez.  

. The representatives of the Governors are Gral. Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, of the state of Vargas, and Hugo Cabezas, a civilian, of Trujillo. The National Assembly chose Earle Herrera and Tania Diaz, both from the PSUV, and the Supreme Tribunal of Justice chose its President, Luisa Estela Morales. All are solid chavistas, naturally, as members of the opposition are systematically excluded from appointments of this nature. The new council is the result of the President’s terminal illness and of the need of ensuring at least a semblance of democratic governance without handing over power to any one person. It keeps the Vice President in check while providing him with a sort of crisis cabinet. At this time it does not appear that the Council is designed to serve as a bridge with the opposition, even if that cannot be excluded. 

The regime continues, even in its present process of accelerating collapse, to approve laws and issue decrees designed to entrench its Marxist objectives. It also continues to use its language of class confrontation and hatred. “There is no possibility of reconciliation with the bourgeoisie”, Vice President Jaua said recently. In a separate statement he also clarified that the Council of State was not about organizing any transition. However, one must assume that the present radical language used by all government and PSUV officials serves no other purpose than to ensure their own very personal political survival after Chávez disappears from the scene. No one wants to be branded a traitor before that, but it will be a very different ball game once he no longer is in power.     

Chávez also signed into Law, on 30 April, the new Organic Labor Law (“Ley del Trabajo para los Trabajadores y las Trabajadoras”, LOTTT), abusing the power vested in him by the last Enabling Law, even if his obedient Supreme Tribunal of Justice promptly ruled to confirm its constitutional and “organic” status, thus requiring a two thirds majority to reform the law. The text, which was drafted in secret, not even involving Deputy Figueras of the Communist Party (the head of the parliamentary commission on labor relations), took some time to be published and was initially only described by Chávez himself in general terms, only highlighting the reduction of weekly working hours from 44 to 40 and the establishment of a pre-natal period of six weeks in addition to the existing six months post-natal period. After its text became available, the fears of those that the 555 article long text would abolish the tripartite (government, employers and workers) philosophy of the International Labor Organization (ILO) were  confirmed, with a number of labor lawyers stating that the new law is almost a carbon copy of the Cuban labor law. The new law is unconstitutional, and the free labor movement will denounce the new law at the ILO Conference in Geneva, which starts on 30 May. 

A text which was promptly published in the Official Gazette on 30 April is that of the Reform of the Organic Law Against Organized Crime and the Financing of Terrorism, which extends the attribution to carry out covert (sting?) operations it originally only conferred on the Judicial Police and the National Police, to all components of the Armed Forces and to the Directorate of Military Intelligence. In February, when the original Law was approved, it had established the obligation of all state offices and financial institutions to report suspicious activities in general, but especially those of “politically exposed persons” (see Summary 54). The reform now also includes the obligation of all NGO’s to report the origin of their funding, a point fought over for a long time in the National Assembly, with active participation even of members of the diplomatic corps. All this is unconstitutional.  

On 14 April President Chávez established a “Special Anti-Coup Command” (its full name is Comando Especial Anti-Golpe Civico-Militar). According to El Nacional, President Chávez said the Special Command will have the task of presenting an “integral anti-coup plan” in the coming weeks.  The plan would cover “all parts of the national reality” (“todos los ambitos de la realidad nacional”) and will go “beyond the political realm, covering also the economy, with the in-depth answer which we would give this bourgeoisie which believes that it is beyond the Constitution and the laws” (“… Este comando va más allá de la política, tiene que ver con la economía, con la respuesta que nosotros daríamos en profundidad contra esta burguesía que se cree más allá de la Constitución y las leyes"). Its unconstitutional nature is obvious.

Chávez added that this “integral plan” would not be limited to public order and the stability of the country, also stating that if the opposition candidate, whom he again called “majunche’, and his team were not to recognize his victory on 7 October “the people and soldiers would take to the streets” ("el pueblo y los soldados saldrán a la calle"). Chávez finally called on his followers to remain alert to a new “golpista” conspiracy against his government. “The Majunche was put there to be part of the new conspiracy being carried out in Venezuela. All eyes open, the conspiracy is on the march”. (“Al majunche lo pusieron allí para ser parte de la nueva conspiración que se está llevando a cabo en Venezuela. Ojo pelao, la conspiración está en marcha”). It is widely feared that the regime is fabricating files to incriminate leaders of the opposition, including Capriles (see next paragraph). The head of the Sebin, the political police, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, is said to be just the right man for the task. 

The regime has already intensified its position of blaming the opposition for everything. Electricity shortages are now the result of sabotage by the opposition, the Aponte and Velazquez Alvaray confessions are also a conspiracy by the opposition, and the La Planta and other prison protests have also been provoked and manipulated by the opposition. Lately the state television and radio stations have been rehashing the 2004 story of the so-called “Paracachitos”, a group of some 120 Colombian paramilitary bussed to Caracas to supposedly overthrow the government and which were detained almost as soon they arrived. These radio and TV programs have now been trying to implicate Capriles in this failed operation of the far right. It could be a sign of preparations of a new “file” against the opposition candidate. Venezuela is fast becoming a stalinist police state.

Have drug mafias taken control of the Venezuelan judiciary, and do judges, including Justices of the Supreme Tribunal, and prosecutors, carry out instructions from the Executive branch, including from the President of the Republic, to persecute political adversaries?  Former Supreme Tribunal Justice Eladio Ramon Aponte Aponte, a retired Colonel who apparently was appointed to the TSJ on personal instructions of the President, stated as much and more in an interview given to the Miami-based SoiTV station, property of Eligio Cedeno, the banker and former political prisoner liberated by Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni in accordance with the law, and for which she was sent to jail by Chávez personally, live on national television (for the full interview in Spanish click on ). Aponte also maintains that the cases of the politically persecuted are discussed every Friday morning in meetings chaired by the Vice President of the Republic, who is the person running the Venezuelan justice system, he said, and in which the Prosecutor General, the President of the National Assembly, the Attorney General, the Comptroller General, and sometimes some of the heads of the police forces, also participate. 

It was an official ID extended to Mackled by Aponte which was considered enough by the chavista dominated National Assembly to make Aponte the fall guy and remove him from his position of Supreme Court Justice and head of its Criminal Law Chamber, as well as head of the criminal judicial circuits of the Federal district (Caracas) and Zulia (Maracaibo).Aponte also had something to say about an army officer involved in drug trafficking and the high- level pressure he endured, including from the Minister of Defense (General Baduel, at the time) and of an officer in the office of the President, in order to free an army officer who had been caught red handed storing a large shipment of cocaine in an army barrack. Aponte confessed that he freed the officer, and that the officer was later reinstated in his rank and function. 

Aponte is now being debriefed by the DEA in the US, and one has probably not seen the end of this episode which has shaken the regime to its foundations, probably entailing international prosecution against some very highly placed people here in the not too distant future. The regime has naturally accused the opposition and the “empire” of being behind it all, but fact is that Aponte was closely linked to Walid Mackled, the Drug Kingpin long held in Bogotá and extradited to Venezuela at the personal request of President Chávez, in detriment of a similar request by the US government. Aponte’s grave confessions clearly have much wider ramifications, and probably constitute the most damning information ever to hit this severely damaged regime. The Prosecutor General, Luisa Ortega Diaz, declared however that her office had no reason to investigate the persons mentioned by Aponte, as he had no credibility. In addition, a war among drug lords is being waged, apparently for the control of territory. The separate assassinations, in broad daylight and after the killers asked them for their names, of two former military very close to Chávez since their days at the Military Academy, Jesus Aguilarte and Wilmer Moreno, is another indication of how the regime is rotting away. 

Another former Supreme Tribunal justice of the Chávez era with a very dubious past, Luis Velázquez Alvaray, speaking from his exile in Costa Rica, declared to SoiTV that the two assassinations were ordered by General Alcalá Cordones, whom he called the Drug Czar of Venezuela. Velazquez also became the second to denounce the regime as controlled by drug traffickers, and, among other things, also accused former Vice President and now Council of State member José Vicente Rangel and the former Prosecutor General, Isaias Rodriguez, of being the intellectual authors of the assassination of prosecutor Danilo Anderson, no saint himself. He also produced the text in which supposedly President Chávez instructs then National Electoral Council President Carrasquero to hand over the list of those who signed the request to convene the presidential recall referendum, and also stated that the Apure ranch of former Interior Minister Rodriguez Chacin serves as a training center for young Venezuelans, who then are taken over by the FARC finishing school. He also stated that it was José Vicente Rangel who ordered that the Policia Metropolitana Commisaires be sentenced to 30 years in prison. For the full interview click on .

Strong rumors about General Hugo (“El Pollo”) Carvajal going into hiding or having already left the country could point to the next former high official jumping from this leaking (sinking?) ship. Carvajal was until not too long ago the Director of the feared Military Intelligence Directorate, and supposedly also involved in the drug trade. Generals Carvajal, Rangel Silva (the Defense Minister) and Alcalá are “specially designated nationals” under the US Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
These developments are only slightly less harmful to the regime’s civilian faction than to its military one, the two factions now disputing power after the process of acceptance of the terminal nature of the President’s illness was set in motion by chavista Governor Castro Soteldo of the state of Portuguesa when, at a meeting of the PSUV top brass on 28 April, he presented three scenarios, one of them called “elections without Chávez”. Some usually very well informed persons maintain that Cabello has already taken over power, while others believe that Jaua and Maduro, both firmly in the Cuban camp and now allies against Cabello, engineered the whole Aponte operation with Cuban assistance in order to stop Cabello and the less than kosher generals in his camp from such a power grab. Both things could be true. The Council of State does appear to have a majority of Jaua and Maduro loyalists, and could be designed not only to rebalance Cabello’s recent appointment as President of the National Assembly and First Vice President of the PSUV (appointments which Chávez supposedly only made under pressure), but also to protect and improve the PSUV’s electoral possibilities by purging the party and the state, maybe even the army, of its criminal elements.

Only Chávez could hold together the two factions supporting his totalitarian project. As he fades away, his discredited regime must organize a difficult transition even a decent  government would have found daunting, while fighting an overwhelming stream of deeply damaging information from within. Quite naturally it appears paralyzed as to how to reestablish a measure of decency and credibility in its ranks, and it has chosen to attack the opposition and “the empire” instead. It has not yet struck its “enemies” openly because opinion polls still give Chávez an advantage of some 4% over Capriles – it was 20% over Rosales at this time in 2006 – and the Jesuit “Centro Gumilla” has recorded that 43% of those it questioned now stated that they feared giving their opinion, the majority of them being sector D and E voters, the poorest. With the numbers of registered voters likely to reach 18.700.000 by Election Day and a probable abstention of some 25%, Capriles would need some 7.5 million votes to win, 2 million more than the hard core opposition voters. Capriles continues on an upward trend, while Chávez has started to fall in the polls. 

The quandary faced by the regime is complex. Dismissing the narcogenerals would leave the Armed Forces in the hands of officers who would probably not back an attempt to disregard an unfavorable electoral result in October, but not dismissing them could lead to precisely such an unfavorable result, after which they could feel very tempted to run the country themselves. The civilian-Cuban faction will have to act quickly and decisively if it wants to avoid becoming their hostages. The question then arises about which of the two factions would have the longer shelf life if it emerged victorious. Probably the civilians, particularly in the unlikely event that they move back to the full observance of the Constitution, but the narcogenerals have nowhere to go and that makes them dangerous. The new Council of State could play an important role in this regard, but no one in the regime (or outside of it) has any certainty about anything anymore; and all its Dukes and Barons are in panic about who could be the next protected witness flown to the US by the DEA. There is also an eerie feeling that no one is really in charge. 

1 comentario:

Jan Pahl dijo...

la pregunta de las 24 mil lochas es cuánto durará la vida del presidente, los escenarios son distintos si no llega, llega o sobrevive