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Venezuela: Last weeks of the chavista regime?

By Daniel Duquenal

Fin de Règne Caracas: a scramble for jobs, caught squatters, corruption accusations flying and the pillaging of PDVSA and our national cultural heritage.

Is this an optimist title? Well, yes in that this is what I personally hope. Unfortunately it is still far from certain. But the atmosphere that is in Caracas these days is more evocative of the end of an era than the promise of a bright new future. For all of its claims of an impending victory, the chavista ship looks more like a Titanic that hit an iceberg of 2.6 million signatures.

I was on the road these last days and could not write. Then again I would have had trouble choosing a particular issue. Thus, as I do on occasion I will pick a few representative scenes that do evoke this deliciously deliquescent Fin de Règne atmosphere that the French qualified so well, having had so many kings which such endless reigns. Next, all from a judicial scramble to a corruption accusation to the chief of staff general Baduel. A rather long catalog, but it must be told.

PART 1: I wanna be a Justice!

The judicial sauve qui peut

Now that the new law of the High Court has been approved (at the very least questionably) it is time to fire the Justices that are not in the good graces of the regime. But surprisingly it has become more important to name the extra dozen or so Justices that the administration can now place in the court. As the Recall Election nears, a 12 year term seat in the high court seems quite appetizing for some, just in case.

Already the formation of the committee to chose the new Justices was not very promising. The opposition considering the whole deal illegal decided not participate and prepares instead for the mother of all filibusters. However, the worst was the election of the chairman of the committee: Representative Carreño. If there is a discredited representative in the Venezuelan parliament it is Carreño. From announcing the death of a very alive Montesinos (1) to declaring that Direct TV had a hidden camera in the decoding device to spy the Venezuelan people, this representative has demonstrated once and again that he is totally unfit for any public office. But as one of the very few unconditional of El Supremo it is certain that he will do all the necessary dirty work to ensure that all new Justices tow closely the Revolutionary line.

The list of judicial nominees so far goes beyond all that one would have expected in cynical posturing. One is representative Luis Velásquez Alvaray, the father of the beast, the new Judicial Law and a pro Chavez hack if any. Well, he sent a letter to the manager of the president's party to say that as of now he will not be exercising any political function for the party. The letter received and signed by the manager was then duly registered at the notary public. Today Velásquez Alvaray announced that he was candidate to the High Court and that as registered in the notary he was now impartial and thus fit for the job, to offer justice to all.

For the US readers. Imagine a few years ago that Edward Kennedy or Jesse Helms would want to be named to the Supreme Court and would sign a personal note as to their impartiality and fairness as to that moment. And try to imagine that Republicans or Democrats would buy that one and vote for their nomination. Yes, that gross! Except that Helms and Kennedy would have the good sense not to expose themselves to such ridicule, and actually took pride in their partisanship which actually reminded their respective parties of their core values.

But it gets better. Among the list of unfit candidates appears the actual formal head of the Electoral Board, CNE's Carrasquero! That is, the guy supervising, in theory, the critical electoral moment is bailing out to the High Court! And gossip has that he wants nothing less but to become the new president of the High Court as a prize from having being able to postpone by a full year the Recall Election. Just as if the head of the US GOP electoral effort suddenly decided to fill an unexpected Supreme Court opening. Unbelievable nerve!

What a way to save one's butt in case an unfavorable electoral outcome were to happen: sauve qui peut! (whoever can save his skin, do it!, a lousy translation)

But you do not need to wait for the installation of the new High Court to have a taste of how justice will be administered in Venezuela. The investigation report by the National Assembly on the burnt soldiers of Fort Mara stated that the violent fire was originated from inside! From soldiers that at most had matches! Of course the opposition did not approve the report. And the majority representatives that voted yeah are the same ones that will vote on the designation of the new judges.

Thus Human Rights Watch stands vindicated as his report last month is proving to be quite to the point. HRW even allows itself to reply to the rudeness of the Vice President when it disqualified them in a demonstration of his ignorance and political vindictiveness. Which of course does not stop other lackeys from barking against HRW.

Justice and self criticism are the first casualties of the end of eras.

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