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Venezuela's Chavez' campaign mantra: Blame It on Washington

By Alexandra Beech,

All may be fair in love and war, but not always. Chavez supporters in the United States are now claiming that Washington drafted the transition plan recently presented by the opposition called Plan Consenso. The referendum, they claim, is a “decision whether to choose a government made in the US or one made in Venezuela.”

In addition, Chavez claimed on Sunday that those who drafted Plan Consenso received $300,000 in funding from the National Endowment for Democracy.

Let me offer my personal experience with the latest so-called “coup-plotters,” the Plan Consenso team.

Last September, I visited their tiny office, located at the Democratic Coordinator headquarters called “La Quinta de la Unidad”, or the Unity House in Caracas. Its walls were bare. A grey desk and three chairs stood in the center. A fourth chair was dragged in, cramping us in further.

I met with three team members, including its head, Diego Bautista Urbaneja, Marcel Carvallo, and Julieta Fernández Catalá.

Paranoia hung in the air, because yet another rumor had circulated that the National Guard was about to raid the house. For the team drafting the opposition’s transition program, that meant leaving no paperwork behind in the office, and keeping most files in a lap top computer.

At the time, much of the plan was already drafted. Each team member explained enthusiastically how they had met with the country’s leading economists, academics, party leaders, political scientists, educators, sociologists, labor leaders, and others to consult on the plan.

What is frustrating, said one, was convincing parties about particular issues. “We constantly rephrase certain sentences so that everyone is satisfied.”

As I listened, I realized that this was perhaps the first transition program in history drafted by regular citizens. Not academics locked up in lofty institutions, or economists at a think tank, or politicians hungry for power. This was a plan conceived, sentence by sentence, with the input of every political party, civic organization, and many others in the opposition.

The government, obviously, feels threatened. It was forced to shift gears from saying that the opposition had a no plan to accusing Washington of drafting it. Over the weekend, Chavez revealed his desperation. According to Veninvestor’s Local News Editor Sol Maria Castro, Chavez “went from saying the plan was written in the States to saying it was the same plan Ugalde had introduced with Ortega and Carmona in La Esmeralda a few days before April 11, 2002. Since Friday, they have been attacking and ridiculing the plan, a proof that they know it will hurt them. Since there is no candidate to attack (the very same reason why the CD decided against having one), they are intent on criticizing the Plan.” More disturbing still, Chavez is now using his usual cast of apologists in the US to supplement his accusations.

Washington, for its part, has remained silent so far. More than likely, staffers and advisors are scrolling through the cumbersome and thick document to read what is proposes. Having been accused of every evil to fall on Venezuela since liberation, they are accustomed to Chavez by now.

However, his avid listeners and television viewers will not remain so calm after hearing his latest accusations. Their hatred towards Washington and the opposition will likely grow, increasing the chances of violence during the weeks leading to the referendum. By continuously linking the opposition with Washington, Chavez is diminishing the success of the referendum as a tool for reconciliation, and creating an atmosphere of tension and violence.

Washington is not the author of the Plan Consenso, nor is it the author of his failures.

Both the opposition and Plan Consenso were created by Venezuelans who have grown increasingly frustrated and disillusioned by his inability to construct a nation for all Venezuelans. They want a government that creates jobs and security.

If there’s a country that has interfered in Venezuela’s affairs, it is Cuba and not the United States.

Because he cannot attack the substance of Plan Consenso, it is likely that Chavez will remain on the weak offensive. Before dismissing him, both the opposition and international observers should be aware that his audience takes everything that he says seriously. An opposition victory, and opposition plans in the future, will be forever be linked to the enemy that he created: Washington. Unless the opposition responds appropriately by explaining in the media how the plan was created locally through months of discussions and negotiations, the recall referendum will fail, especially if Chavez loses it.

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