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Gazing at the Crystal ball in Venezuela

By Daniel Duquenal

Wednesday 2, June 2004 - After the excitement of the last few days there is a certain exhaustion setting in, including with this blogger who last night could not take it anymore and was sleeping by 10 PM.

No major news since yesterday afternoon. Except the usual stuff that has been going on as the government keeps trying to frighten the opposition with more and move searches, now rarely accompanied with a search warrant. Intimidating actions range from trying to indict Maria Corina Machado of Sumate for betrayal to the fatherland (I suppose that they think that Sumate is like chavismo, if you cut the head all will collapse; little do they know) to searching this morning the office of Turhupial, a noted lawyer that has exposed many of chavismo abuses. For good measure they also searched the apartment of his mother. Not forgetting that agaisnt all legal reason and precedent Baruta's mayor is now three weeks in jail as a real political prisoner and Ibeyise Pacheco, a journalist that has exposed many corruption cases, is about to join him. Clearly a desperate regime trying to scare the people as to what real repression would be. Little success so far.

So what is in hold for us. My crystal ball is as hazy as ever. My very best bet right now, and this could change this afternoon already, is divided in two scenarios:

* The CNE (duly authorized by Chavez) will announce that it seems that the signatures are in. This will be done in such a way as to allow legal action to postpone the final result announcement. 2-3 weeks will pass until finally the results are announced. But by then the CNE will declare that the Recall Election is after August 19 and all hell might break lose. The card played there is the cynicism card: "see, I have accepted the opposition signatures but now they are bitching again! See, they are not democrats! There is no pleasing them!".

The advantage of this scenario is that even if the Recall Election takes place and Chavez loses he leaves there a supporter to rule until 2006, to help him come back. Another advantage is that a combination of 3 more months of Misiones give away gifts and the knowledge of people that chavismo will not be eliminated no matter what the result of the Recall Election is, might dampen the enthusiasm enough that Chavez might actually squeak by again and remain in office. But there is a risk: if he leaves someone in Miraflores for two years, that person could grow his own political ambition and this Chavez cannot allow!!!!! Chavez is an authoritarian and he is not going to accept ANYONE to cast a shade on his path.

* Chavez decides a bold counteroffensive. He accepts the results and suddenly resigns. The High Court allow him to run again and he counts on an opposition division to win with as little as 35% of the votes. Even if he loses it will still be less politically damaging than losing a Recall Election. And whomever is elected will be there for only two years. With the mess that Chavez will leave, it is difficult that the new president will be able to recover the country enough to avoid a Chavez come back in 2006, unless the constitution is changed to a two round balloting system.

This scenario has many advantages for Chavez, it will allow him to look like a democrat, and he could come back with a vengeance wiping once and for all the opposition in 2006. The main problem is that during these two years enough corruption could be uncovered to damage his chances to return. A big risk!!!!!

And of course there is always a wild scenario. A new paramilitary like invention that allows him to order a state of siege and may the gods have mercy on us.

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