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<nettime> "In order to understand what is currently occurring in Venezue
Quim Gil on Mon, 16 Dec 2002 14:52:48 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> "In order to understand what is currently occurring in Venezuela"


I owe an answer to Craig Brozefsky. I have been asking his question to
people in Venezuela, got answers and must translate them into English
now.

In the meantime, here it is an article that shows more or less a vision
between prochavistas and pro-coup d'état partidaries.



In order to understand what is currently occurring in Venezuela


Analítica.  Domingo, 15 de diciembre de 2002
http://www.analitica.com/


1.

The access to the Presidency of Venezuela (1999) by Hugo Chávez was a an
undoubted legitimate, constitutional and electoral act

The following are rough lines that could explain through times what were
the
strong reasons that allowed Chávez to become President: 1) We faced a
real
invalidation of the traditional parties' leadership performance; these
parties had been acting since 199. The parties did not renew themselves
and
were exhausted when facing the qualitative and quantitative change
experienced by the Venezuelan people. 2) There was evidence of the lack
of a
real and effective strategy when fighting against corruption. 3) The
public
administrative structures reached higher peaks of inefficiency in their
duty
to satisfy the most pressing expectations and needs of the people,
generally, and more specifically, of those of the poorest.

In order to win, Chávez, as a candidate, made use of a frank, direct
language, one of recriminations of the past, openly challenging the
establishment showing himself as the champion of the poor, supported on
a
manipulated call to the image of Simón Bolívar.

Chávez effort was centered on showing the differences between two sides
of
Venezuela: one of those who have nothing and another of the supposedly
rich,
the powerful. To the former he promised power. With him, they would be
the
power. To the latter he pledged to oust them from power.

In his effort, and still then in an unclear way, he was not refused the
support of the owners of important media, of determining banking
sectors,
and of most influencing representatives of the domestic industrial
sector.

2.

Hugo Chávez thus became the hope of a possible change. His option and
his
subsequent victory represented a definite break with the process and the
constitutional way set for more than 40 years. As soon as inaugurated,
he
backs his promise: he calls for a referendum, he calls for a constituent
power; a new Constitution is drafted and adopted. He then begins to
really
perform government centered in a single person, something that never
been
seen before. In his words "he brings a new foundation to the Republic",
with
the appearance of a fully legitimated government, yet whose Executive
Power
leads, controls or intervenes clearly and repeatedly the Legislative,
the
Judicial, the Controlling body and the Office of Public Prosecution.

3.

Once elected President, Chávez makes use of most coherent communication
strategy: without intermediation of institutions, he takes for himself
the
role of the great communicator, a direct one, in order to show that,
now,
the power is some sort of a marriage of people and army, while shaping a
new
republic domestically, and a new leadership in the continent.

The most obvious signs are quickly identified and recognized by analysts
and
scholars: a new government has taken shape, one that is autocratic,
authoritarian, populist, militarist and highly inefficient when
performing
and executing public policies.

4.

Every opinion poll carried out during the years 1999 and 2000 (Venezuela
has
qualified public opinion research companies) shows a sustained popular
support of between 60 and 70% favorable to the President.

5.

Having a stronghold on power and with tangible results in his populist
communication scheme, Chávez disqualifies the political parties, he
swears
to destroy the federation of labor unions -"it is illegitimate", says
he" -;
he calls the business leadership "rotten centers of power"; he attacks
the
Catholic Church leadership, linking its members to evil ("they carry the
devil under the cassock", said he on one occasion); and he calls for
initiatives turning Government into an interventionist factor in private
education's schemes and contents.

5.

We thus see the beginning, during the third year of his term, of his
first
failures in his quest to impose himself on said institutions, The Church
responds strongly. It becomes impossible for him to oust the chairman of
the
workers' federation of unions who, strikingly roots himself more
strongly in
his office. And, in one extreme, the middle class and the lower middle
class
feels that with the Presidents' proposals in the field of education he
was
"meddling with their children". The first street rallies against him
appear.

The President does not modify his style. He does not call for a dialog,
He
does not recognize any institutions, He keeps on disqualifying and
insists
on a positioning as a ruler supported by the conceptual abstraction of
"People-Armed Forces".

6.

Simultaneously he embarks on inexplicable and reiterated voyages
throughout
the world, traveling to such far places as China, going through forums
and
meeting with Heads of State in Europe several times, and taking Cuba as
his
most preferred place. As on December 2002 -four years after his
inauguration-, in spite of the fact that he is the President of the of
the
most trusted country as to the security of energy supplies has been
impossible for him to get a private meeting with the U.S. President.

December 2001: the first national strike against him, one lasting just
one
day. It was a successful strike that united workers with businessmen and
allowed the opposition "to discover certain strength an political
presence
in itself". However, president Chávez does not interpret said action by
the
country and, responding, he points to and reinforces his original style,
repeatedly calling the year 2002 as "the year of his revolution's
consolidation".

In doing so, the most representative elements are the transfer of highly
ranked military officers to public administration duties; the allocation
of
huge fiscal resources to social programs managed by the Venezuelan army;
the
open fostering of an absurd confrontation with the media; and,
pathetically,
to travel throughout the world.

7.

The economic indexes are beginning to show the results: there is an
increase
in the population's poverty levels, unemployment reaches figures never
seen
before and the currency is devaluated in more than 100%, all of it
during a
period when Venezuela is benefiting from high profitable levels in the
price
of oil.

Late in 2001 the opinion polls and research show a significant
deterioration
in the President's popular support. Below 50%.

8.

The first quarter of 2002 shows a period in which the Venezuelan middle
class and working class discovers "the streets" as a permanent tool for
participation and claims. It is in this period that, to say in one way
"there is no more fear and apathy is left behind" The streets of Caracas
are
no longer for the exclusive use of the "chavistas".

9.

In order to fully understand from abroad Venezuela's political fact,
under
any circumstance or stage of its history, it is essential that one
accepts
and understands its condition as an oil country. Venezuela is oil. Faced
with a reaction by highly qualified workers of the country's main
industry,
president Chávez in a nationwide press conference, announces in an
autocratic and challenging manner the firing of key men and women of the
industry.

This fact boosts the rallies being held, reaching the fatidic march of
April
11. The greatest concentration of people ever seen in Venezuela, one
that,
according to international analysts, is among the most concurred in the
Latin American continent.

At the end of the march tens of Venezuelans die from the fire of
pro-government sharpshooters and gunmen. This generates disobedience and
reactions within the Armed Forces. Their High Command asks Chávez's
resignation. He accepts, in principle, he is detained and transferred. A
business leader becomes President of the Republic. Yet terrible
political
and operational errors lead to Chávez's return to power three days
after.

He turns his return into a triumph of the people. "It is the people who
rule. I am just the people's tool. It was the people who rescued me", he
repeats. Once again in power he deepens his non-recognition of the other
institutions, he increase the aggressions against the media, the church
and
the unions.

The opposition sectors, however, learn their lesson: they do not abandon
the
streets. The marches and rallies are repeated and the number of people
in
them grows.

Eight months after the massacre, the government actions have prevented,
both
at the level of Parliament as in the participation of international
bodies,
the creation of an investigation level ""Truth Commission"). Total
impunity.

10.

The polls keep giving their figures: popular support of the President
becomes a minority, It reaches 30%, then 20% and now, in December, 2002
it
is within a maximum range of between 15% and 17%.

11.

The opposition. Another determining factor in order to get a feeling of
what
is Venezuela's current reality is to understand "what or which is the
opposition" in Venezuela. Prior to the arrival of Chávez, the opposition
in
the country was a matter for the political parties. That reality enters
a
terminal crisis with the striking political and electoral victories of
the
President between the years 1998 and 2000.

Nowadays, the opposition is a quite atomized range of leaders and
managers
of what is left of the traditional parties, of recently created
political
groups, of labor and business leaderships and emerging representatives
of
what is called the "civil society". Next to them, one observes the
performance of the media, especially the country's main television
channels
and newspapers.

During these four years, the Venezuelan opposition has not found within
itself "a potion of leadership" that may lead it and represent it and
that
may facilitate a direct confrontation with Chávez. However, it was
indeed
able to create a level of contact and coordination in what is known as
the
"Democratic Coordinating Body" (some 40 people).

The legitimate and necessary political confrontation is not yet seen in
parliament, in electoral initiatives, in forums in negotiation tables.
Confrontation between government and opposition occurs in TV screens
and,
directly in the streets.

12

Such a dynamics leads to obvious consequences in a government that is
autocratic and populist by definition: the President definitely looses
all
institutional support, he looses the spontaneous presence of the people
in
the streets (he is bound to make use of fiscal resources and buses to
hold
rallies, as well as to allow impunity when faced with violence),
corruption
grows openly, especially that linked to the Armed Forces, and parliament
(the National Assembly) and the Office of the Attorney General are held
mute, without institutional performance.

The O.A.S. Secretary, César Gaviria, is able to play a mediator role in
the
crisis and a "Negotiation Table" is set-up, formed by six Venezuelans
for
each of the two sectors: government and opposition, Gaviria decides to
set
himself on a full-time basis in Venezuela. After eighteen (18) sessions
of
this table, little or nothing has been reached concretely.

13.

After the sad incidents of April, two key facts occur: 1) the highest
and
most qualified leadership of the Armed Forces declares itself in "civil
disobedience" and take a square in Caracas, from where they have not
left in
six weeks. Other groups of generals recur before the Supreme Tribunal of
Justice and this instance declares them not guilty of the criminal
charges
brought against them by the Government. These two facts make the
President
extremely angry. And, for the first time he insults the Justices of the
Supreme Tribunal. 2) The head of the unions' federation performs a lead
role
and with the federation of businessmen, the support of the media and the
surprisingly high level of participation of the common citizen
organizing
itself through hundreds of NGOs, calls for a fourth national strike for
December 2.

President Chávez once again underestimates and disqualifies this new
call.
Unexplainably, action by the National Guard against civil society
stimulates
the strike, allowing and this allowed the correction of the initial
errors
made. On the fourth day, at a rally in Eastern Caracas, there is an
attack
against peaceful demonstrators, with a toll of three dead (a girl in her
teens, an old lady and a university professor) and 20 wounded.

In the midst of the strike, an extremely significant action takes place;
Chávez attacks again the oil industry's employees and fires key
managers.
The reaction is immediate, Not less than six thousand of the highly
qualifies employees of the industry meet in an assembly (December 12)
and
decide not to return to their jobs until president Chávez leaves,

14.

Venezuela, thus, lives something never experienced before: its oil
industry,
the fundamental basis of its income, paralyzed for 12 consecutive days.
The
Venezuelan oil corporation is the 4th or 5th largest in the world.
Extraction had never stopped in Venezuela during its 53 years of oil
history. The crisis gets now a geopolitical nature.

Venezuela produces as an average some 2.8 million barrels a day. The
production, refining, loading and departures and arrivals of ships, the
generation of gas and petrochemical products hardly reach more than 20%
of
the daily production. The striking sector talks of representing 90% of
the
workers and point out that the generation of gas and gasoline being
produced
shall be maintained in order to support the country's electric energy
system
and basic services, All the Venezuelan cargo fleet has laid anchors
offshore, refusing to move, with its captains and crews on board. The
world'
s largest refinery is located in Venezuela -"Paraguaná"- and an Army
General
replaced its Director.

The White House, today Friday 13, issues for the first time a statement
on
what is happening in Venezuela. It points out that Venezuela's problem
must
be solved by the Venezuelan themselves through anticipated elections,
While
this occurs, the proposal brought by the Venezuelan ambassador at the
O.A.S,
as to what is occurring in Venezuela is rejected by its Permanent
Council.
As yet it is not possible to assess this decision's domestic and
international impact.

15.

Objectively, one may affirm that president Chávez holds to power only by
one
of the following reasons: 1) because there has not been an armed
reaction by
the military; 2) because his openly autocratic and "caudillo-way"
performance prevent him from acting as a head of state when facing an
institutional crisis: from negotiating, from talking or resigning. The
unions' sector, the business sector, the Church, the political parties
in
their majority, the organized civil society, the media oppose him
actively
and openly. Add to this a definitely paralyzed oil industry and the
people
constantly present on the streets.

16.

What happened? President Chávez defrauded a great hope. He turns the
nation'
s dream (1998) into a great fraud (2000-2002). He dilapidated in no more
than 36 the greatest and most solid popular support that any Venezuelan
president had in the past. He had a legitimate origin yet his
performance is
not legitimate (Democratic Chart, OAS). His conduct does not go beyond
reflecting the performance of an improperly formed military officer,
with
scarce intellectual and ethical conditions and -in the opinion of
specialists- with obvious emotional conflicts.

17

What is to come now? The president is a prisoner of his own words. The
unions' leadership swore not to give up until Chávez is ousted or until
elections are called for the first quarter of 2003. The oil industry is
not
generating a single barrel of oil for export, and oil exports are the
fundamental source of the country's economic existence. The people
opposing
the regime are in the street, announcing once more "The taking of
Caracas,
the greatest ever held rally". Parliament (the clearest political
scenario)
is subordinated to the president's orders. The military component is
subordinated is still a mystery. The president's followers take the
streets
under processes of induction and guidance, not spontaneously, and with
reiterated showings of aggressiveness and violence.

It is impossible to give a prediction based at least in days. Each hour
counts, each action modifies the scenario.

Caracas, Friday December 13, 2002.



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