Venezuela's presidential recall: Mother of all wars?
By Agustin Blanco Muñoz, El Universal
How does Hugo Chávez become a "revolutionary coup leader"? In the 1998 electoral campaign, he said, "This is a combat to me, a political war." That confrontation was to produce a winner and a loser. That is the way a revolutionary process evolves "to destroy this system and remake it." And this destruction and solution of the crisis of this society... "I think are going to be violent." "This is peaceful revolution, but it is armed." And he meant, more precisely, tanks, rifles and machine guns. Many people did not understand this back then.
The questions reaffirm our anguish. Will there be a presidential revoking referendum? Will repression and murdering of innocent people continue? Will the military take up arms? My interlocutor, a woman in her 70s, refuses to believe that the recall will not be held. She says: The world is full with terrorism and massacres. Maybe we think that our situation is not like a September 11 or the Palestine-Israeli conflict or last week tragedy in Madrid. But on February 27, 1989, [when violent riots and loots were repressed by public forces] thousands of people were killed in the streets and buried in mass graves, and this happened again on April 11, 2002, and on February 27, 2004. I think the world cannot get rid of violence. Then, do we have to continue counting corps? Is that the only way the government has found to stay in power? I first saw the recall as a saving possibility and did not want to listen to you because by then you were already announcing this tragedy. Please explain me what we are going through now and what we would need to do to overcome this nightmare.
Pérez and Caldera failed
On February 27, 1989, a social explosion marked the end of the democracy model based on oil income. All the institutions, leaders, political parties, and ideologies lost their credibility. After the massacre, instability, uncertainty and ingovernability settled down in Venezuela, or the remains of this former country. The central role taken by the majorities then became a danger. Despite their investments to fight poverty, the governments of Carlos Andrés Pérez and Rafael Caldera were unable to repair the damages.
A coup plotter becomes a candidate
Amid emergency, the men and the project of [the failed coup d'etat of] February 1992 became visible to both domestic and international eyes. Thus, the man who led a rebellion and confessed to be an insurrect (If one day I become a candidate, execute me!), took the path of the votes to get the presidency. The United States always denied him support, until Jimmy Carter demonstrated that he was the most convenient politician for Venezuela and for the empire. He was a new figure, with a leadership and capacity to contain and control a popular movement in the verge of overflowing. Carter called this new perspective "a peaceful revolution."
A coup leader becomes a revolutionary
How does this man become a "revolutionary coup leader"? In the 1998 electoral campaign, he said, "This is a combat to me, a political war" (Blanco Muñoz, A. Habla el comandante, p. 536). That confrontation was to produce a winner and a loser.
That is the way a revolutionary process evolves "to destroy this system and remake it" (p. 287). And this destruction and solution of the crisis of this society... "I think are going to be violent" (p. 397). "This is peaceful revolution, but it is armed" (p. 168). And he meant, more precisely, tanks, rifles and machine guns. Many people did not understand this back then.
What about democracy?
What is the role of votes in all this? "Whatever it is that intends to get over this model of liberal democracy, which we think is already defunct, cannot emerge from an election." As a consequence, a violent regime can only be replaced by means of force. Can someone who thinks this way be easily liquidated by peaceful, electoral and constitutional proceedings? Who said that the coup leader had become a democrat?
From cowardice to vindication
The devotion of the coup-leading president to violence is well known, but it is usually placed behind his cowardice. Two historic events illustrate it: February 4, 1992, when he entrenched himself in the Military Museum, and April 11, 2002, when he was proposed to resign, "and he accepted," [as current minister of Defense announced to the country by TV]. The coup-leading president's subsequent behavior was aimed at vindicating himself. For this reason, he has asked for "his people's" forgiveness, because he let them down on April 11, 2002, and has promised not to behave that way again.
The February 27, 2004 rupture
Today, two very well defined factions are separated by their desires of power. The side that holds power is determined to keep it even through violence. The side wanting to take it has been skillfully led by the coup-leading president to electoral traps conceived to catch them. The government has implemented a plan to push the opposition to overt violence to be able to hit it hardest and then place more obstacles to any kind of negotiation, agreement or truce. Thus, February 27, 2004, [when an opposition demonstration was severely repressed by the public forces] marked a crucial point in the crisis. It was a carefully planned political battle.
Violence in action
The way in which violence operated on February 27, 2004, and the subsequent days needs to be understood. The government insists that the National Guard and the rest of the repressive forces caused no death that day. The opposition killed all the victims. Repression bodies are not familiar with admitting their vileness. The truth is that the National Guard exhibited the most abusive and savage behavior, but the deepest repression, that is, torture, disappearances and killing was performed by a squad with different uniform and special procedures.
Accepted yet unobserved
As these instruments are put in shape and pointed against the middle class, the government plays with its electoral trap. And the first to be trapped is the opposition. The government only goes under the electoral umbrella to make the others believe it will accept an election. It allows its enemies to jump into the electoral game only to apply its violent, repressive force on them, which will inevitably lead to negotiation. This is why the opposition is the largest party supporting the "revolution," and this is why the presidential revoking referendum is not the problem, regardless of the feasibility of the ratification process. The peaceful, electoral and constitutional fall of this "revolutionary government" is not in the agenda. Jesús Urdaneta Hernández revealed in his book: "If they make it easy for me to get the presidency through the votes, and then Acción Democrática thinks I am going to resign or they are going to oust me with votes, they have their head in the clouds. The only way to take me out of the government is shooting me." (Urdaneta Hernández, J. El comandante irreductible, 2003, p. 264). That is how the democratized coup leader talks.
Tricks to the TSJ
The opposition has insisted that their struggle is peaceful. For this reason, it questioned the decisions of the National Electoral Council (CNE) and appealed it before the Electoral Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) trying to invalidate the ruling on the collection forms with uniform handwriting, although they were "totally armored." But a dispute arose between two factions of power itself. Comando Ayacucho challenged the Electoral Chamber of the TSJ and the latter challenges the Constitutional Chamber. The goal is to get the collection forms with similar handwriting validated and directly call the referendum. But the Constitutional Chamber moved very swiftly and, with the perversion required for these cases, left all ruling of the Electoral Chamber without effect and took over the most advisable or safe measures.
There will be no referendum
At this moment, the possible ratification process and the very recall election are unimportant. The government counts on the guns in hands of the civilians, international support from the neo-socialism and the majority of the Armed Forces. This is "the mother of all wars." But there are battles yet to come. After the February 27, 2004, tragedy, crime and perversion will continue harassing peace. The media have contributed to create a fictitious freedom leading to many protests and causing serious problems that have kept a dictatorship from strengthening and growing. This dictatorship would possibly have generated conditions for a civil war. It is clear, then, that this polarized politics-war will be followed by an armed confrontation.
Meanwhile, a non-aligned majority is expecting to go beyond the wars and the deaths. It is a community of nearly 40 percent of the Venezuelans, who do not support any of the polarized blocs and feels that the solution of the problems requires the elimination of this government and this opposition and the installation of a new way of constructing the society.
A history without messiahs
However, to that end we need to assume a concept of history without leaders or messiah, an organization ruled by the will and decision of the community. This community will have to create its own leadership, and find new ways to face governmental violence and escape the traps without violence, which cannot be seen as the true solution to the crisis.
This community has the immense challenge of advancing in the definition of new forms of struggle, resistance and organization. It will need to give up both tutelages and advance horizontally. This struggle will be initially uneven, but the community is numerous and it counts on its decision not to allow any revolution, dictatorship or pseudo-democracy to catch it. It is time to break up with a past full of leaders. It is necessary to advance toward a future that it must build up itself, because otherwise no collective expression will be allowed. That is exactly the case of the presidential recall.
Are we heading for another sharing-out?
It is clear that, at this point, the opposition will continue struggling against the "revolution" without neglecting their bids for state and city governments. The 2006 electoral campaign has started to become clear. It will result in a new president, not a new Venezuela. But the current government will remain, without recall and thanks to repression and death. Will everything go back in its place? Poor Venezuela! How difficult it is to overcome this situation of former country! Translated by Edgardo Malaver
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