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The Last Stand of Venezuela's Jose Vicente Rangel

By Gustavo Coronel, November 30, 2003

The behavior of Jose Vicente Rangel during this last week proves that he is determined to become the new leader of the " revolution" after Chávez is ousted or, else, to sink with the ship. He is making a last stand. After the signature collection made by government followers he said, without blinking an eye, that they had collected about 7.9 million signatures. In fact, reality showed that the event was characterized by melancholy and loneliness. How can an intelligent man make such an absurd claim is beyond all rational explanation. Obviously he was in denial of what his eyes had seen. Now, after the signature collection by the opposition which is already entering its third day has proven to be a multitudinary event, he has defined it as a "virtual" exercise. He is trying to tell the world that what is happening is not happening, imitating the suicidal strategy of the propaganda minister of Sadam Hussein during the early days of the U.S. occupation of Baghdad.

In an interview given by Rangel to international reporters he said that he "could not conceive any other government but that of Chávez, since any other government would be chaotic." This assertion would suffice to prove that the man is either mentally unbalanced or does not know the meaning of the word democracy. For him, only Chávez or his representative (Rangel) could be acceptable. It does not matter that these five years of Their government have been the most disastrous in modern Venezuelan history. He glosses over the social and economic collapse the country has experienced, a collapse easily documented through all available indices. But, even assuming that their government had been good, Rangel cannot claim that it is the only acceptable one since democracy is, by definition, a system where alternate political groups can and should have access to power by constitutional means. As the interview became increasingly uncomfortable due to the nature of the questions, Rangel made another undemocratic decision: he refused to answer. Soon after, the interview went off the air, in still another show of authoritarianism.

This attitude by Rangel represents one of the two ugly sides of the current signature collection process in Venezuela. The other one has been the limited but still significant show of arbitrary force by the military. In the State of Zulia, General of the National Guard Alberto Gutierrez tried to prevent the process from taking place. In many other places throughout the country the military have been acting to prevent the process from following its normal course. They have overstepped their duties as trustees of the process, imposing arbitrary restrictions to citizens who are trying to sign. The National Electoral Council has warned them to dessist from these fascist like tactics. There is a portion of the armed force which has been bought by Chávez through bribes and other corrupt practices. This group would lose much with his demise from power.

The magnitude of the signature collection process suggests that Rangel's political days are numbered, unless he has a trick up his sleeve. More than Hugo Chávez, he is the man to watch carefully, because he is not idealistic or messianic. He is a cold blooded and very corrupt political operator.


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