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A tense Friday in Venezuela

By Daniel Duquenal

Friday 5, March 2004 - Tough day today, at least on our patience as still no word on the what will happen to the stolen signatures. Meanwhile the opposition prepares a big march for tomorrow and many people are coming from deep inside Venezuela. I decided to stay although there is a march in Yaracuy that I will miss on Sunday. Really, for once that Yaracuy has some real action with a Governor declaring himself in civil disobedience. But I am here in Caracas and we are marching to the Avenida Libertador, the scene of February 27 disaster. Thus tomorrow I will not be able to cover events as I will take part of them. As I guess that Miguel will also march, our readers will have to wait and hope for a quiet day. I think it will, the government will not have the stomach to attack us tomorrow.

Still, this does not stop the government from trying to scare us away from marching, with what can only be qualified as childish attitudes. Two were downright stupid, one from the security vice minister confusing declarations on possible security breaches tomorrow. The other one a last minute decree suspending all bearing arms permits for 10 days. The real reason behind that one is probably elsewhere, since putting a gun in somebody's car during arrest will be enough to have a legal way to jail them. Civil rights and justice are not paramount these days.

But the crown goes to president Hugo Chavez. Deeply stung by the recent European Union criticism, and other countries too, he summoned all ambassadors for a long, long speech that we got in cadena, not only at noon time, but also tonight as a repeat performance. The thing that lasted about two hours was a series of unfounded accusations, manipulations, complaints, etc, etc... Nothing really unusual from Chavez who already blew a fuse last Sunday. But it seemed so petty as all the ambassadors stoically sat through the ordeal. Only a very few of them applauded politely at the end, and perhaps half a dozen sincerely, including of course the Cuban cheer leader.

But the discourse to the ambassadors was not directed at them, not even to their government. It was directed at Chavez followers, to show that he could browbeat ambassadors and foreign powers at will. This is actually insulting for the Chavez followers that do not know better, that do not know that Ambassadors are trained to deal with the most unsavory regimes on earth. Cheap, very cheap retaliation which can only alienate even further other countries. And also a confession on how weak the international position of Chavez has become.

There was an interesting detail though, the show of clips from the movie (and I carefully do not use the word documentary) "the revolution will not be televised". The ambassadors know very well what that movie is all about. Again, the targeted audience is not the diplomatic corps, it is the chavista emotional core, to justify for them the violence of these days as a pay off from the April 2002 violence. It is one way to get all networks to transmit the movie again, twice in a day. For purely propaganda purposes. And some people still wonder as to why the private media is so opposed to Chavez....

Quite a way to build a country Hugo!

To finish for tonight. At least we got a very good, very clear editorial from the Washington Post that I reproduce below completely. Compare that one to the New York Times. Somebody should tell the NYT that it is getting a beating on Venezuela reporting, and not only from the Post.

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