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Venezuela: last weeks of the chavista regime? Part II

By Daniel Duquenal

PART 2: Corruption and plunder. In the past couple of weeks came to the forefront a bevy of chavista infighting. It is turning ugly as all sorts of accusations are flying.

Upheaval in squatter deals.

One rather amusing case is the arrest of a certain Yasmin Manuit. This very well armed woman was directing one of the gangs that has specialized in squatting all sorts of buildings in the Caracas area under the rule of mayor Freddy Bernal, an erstwhile Chavez faithful. Until now it has seemed that this squatting for profit was done by Lina Ron and Ms. Manuitt, while Bernal had his police turn a blank eye. Suddenly it was all over. Yasmin has seen herself handcuffed and after 4 years of neglect Bernal's police is suddenly expelling squatters. For the last few days Lina, Freddy and Yasmin have been calling each other names, real bad names, not what they were used to do when they discretely blackmailed the building owners that wanted their property back. Who knows what happened there! Someone got short changed? Electoral fever pushing Bernal to pay lip service to private property? Whatever it is, it surely beats Venezuelan soap operas vivid imagination!

Representative Rondon gets even.

On a definitely more serious note we have the case of representative Rondon. Until a few days ago the chairman of the powerful oil committee in the National Assembly, he has been fired and expelled from his party for demanding that the oil minister come to the committee to account for his actions. Revolutionary ministers apparently feel that they are exempt of such decadent democratic procedures.

Tonight Rondon has aimed higher in his corruption accusations, targeting Baduel, the general who most helped Chavez on April 2002 and who is expected to be the fourth general in Venezuelan history to get three stars (Chavez has named 3 of them, incidentally, for revolutionary battles one imagines).

In the picture Rondon is shown with what he claims is the original of a 1999 letter that Baduel sent to help secure some contract in the oil industry. Traffic of influences it is called. What is rather amusing is that this was the retort to a weak attempt by representative Luis Tascon to pin down Rondon with the same charge yesterday. Rondon has declared that "he knows things that could make the government fall". I wonder how do they feel using among themselves the questionable tactics that they have used on the opposition for the past 4 years.

The opposition is not running into the arms of Rondon, by the way. After all he has been for quite a while a chavista lap dog and his credibility is barely any better than Tascon of the infamous web page that listed people who signed in the Recall Election drives. His famous "Tascon list" was blatantly used to fire people in the public administration.

One wonders if Rondon has had enough or if he is just upset because he was left out of some juicy deal. However, what I have observed is the amazingly articulate discourse of Rondon, intelligent and organized. Rondon until a few weeks ago was only too happy to repeat the party line in his talk show apparitions. Who is the real Rondon? Is he a free agent or is he making up something, maybe with he anti Baduel camp?

PDVSA is sinking and whatever can be scavenged by chavismo is grabbed.

But Rondon accusations are unfortunately not unfounded. Reports of PDVSA troubles are more and more insistent. Gustavo Coronel summarizes all the recent reports from low production to financial maneuvers. Indeed among the many things that PDVSA is doing one is to finance the glorious bolivarian revolution. This has obviously created some "financial problems" not to mention expenses difficult to justify. The solution seems to be quite simple: PDVSA is buying back its bonds to get out of the market and thus avoid the obligation of accounting for its finances to the US Securities and Exchanges Commission.

The problems at PDVSA since its take over by the chavista hacks are for all to see. El Universal translates in English an article justly titled PDVSA: a ship adrift. A rudderless PDVSA, who had become the only reliable financial source of any Venezuelan administration, is looking more and more as the near dead goose of the golden egg. Which did not stop the current pillaging administration to grab an extra 2 billion dollars out of PDVSA coffers to finance the Chavez campaign to try to defeat the Recall Election. Well, more likely to line up the pockets of a few officials that feel that the future comes on August 15, and want to be ready no matter what.

But PDVSA is not the only thing being plundered. In another stunning article Milagros Socorro wrote Thursday in El Nacional about all the Venezuelan historical collections which seem to be disappearing, on how some historical sites are barred from view to the public and the press. As a challenge she has asked for proofs of misdeeds with our cultural treasures or to be left in the places, catalog in hand, to write publicly that all is there and it was just a nasty campaign against the Chavez administration. I am afraid that she will rather be disappointed.

Fin de Règne?

Indeed, one can wonder what will be left of the country after August 15. The feeling that we are the end of something suffuses more and more the air we breathe, the news we watch. Even if Chavez remains a new era will come, an era where Chavez will finally control all and democracy as we have known it since 1958 will be gone. It will be a pauperized country, a country unable to reach the growth level it requires to have a chance of leaving poverty. A country on the way to a modern Cuban lifestyle, or on its way to civil war. Opposition and chavismo all know that. This explains the atmosphere we have now where all seem to wait for the sky to fall while a few try to make a last quick buck. Though, no matter the perturbing recent polls, some like this blogger hope for blue skies. There were always people putting their hopes on the new king.



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