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Venezuela’s opposition dilemma: To vote or not to vote…

By Aleksander Boyd

London 18 Sep. 04 – The new leader and spokesperson of the Democratic Coordinator Pompeyo Marquez announced recently that the opposition will indeed participate in the coming regional elections for majors and governors. The ‘sound guru of the opposition’ Teodoro Petkoff stresses that extraordinary efforts should be made towards undermining the popular support enjoyed by the incumbent president in order to win the presidential race in 2006. Negotiations geared at changing the present electoral rules, i.e. non-auditable-by-the-opposition electronic machines and forbiddance to conduct hot audits and other safety measures have to start anew with the same board of partisan crooks running the electoral council. Primero Justicia’s Julio Borges said that they will make the CNE respect the norms…

Chances of success

None. Null. Zero. Francisco Carrasquero, Jorge Rodriguez and Oscar Battaglini seem most content in their actual positions and the great leader has already advised that the revolution needs to pick up the pace. Towards that end an amendment to the constitution is on its way and the gaining of political spaces controlled by adversaries at the regional level must be accomplished without further ado. Assemblymen Luis Velázquez Alvaray has released a proposal containing 21 modifications to the constitution, notorious among which the introduction of a life presidency eliminating the excerpt “immediately and once only” from Article 230 that establishes “The presidential term is six years. The President of the Republic may be re-elected, immediately and once only, to an additional term.” Article 72, the one that made possible the realization of the recall referendum, will also be amended by introducing an increase to the percentage of the electorate needed to trigger the recall from 20% to 30%. Thus, a totally submissive electoral power will guarantee Chavez’ constant victories at the ballots whilst an equally subservient legislative power shall lay the foundations for the instauration of an absolutist democracy.

Faced with such a daunting panorama the pseudo leaders of the opposition declared that they will not cede terrain to chavismo by failing to participate in the regional elections. This begs for the question, how will they attain that goal? Please bear with me:

1) The National Electoral Council (CNE) is already buying more Smartmatic machines in an attempt to eliminate completely manual voting;

2) The balance of power is/will not be changed in the CNE, that is to say the opposition has no way of blocking or counteracting the decisions, regulations and measures approved by the three chavista directors. For instance, should “hot audits” or manual counting of paper trails be requested by the opposition -to be forbidden by the board- who will contest the latter’s stance?

3) The judiciary is an appendix of chavismo and so is the legislative to a certain extent;

4) The army is accountable to no one besides Chavez.

In light of the aforementioned the opposition is simply politically harmless against the regime, participation or absenteeism has no bearing in the final results. Further, it is worth noting that the coming elections will not be ‘observed’ by so called respectable international entities that have shed one too many of its credibility skins in Venezuela. Hence no local operator can sort of ‘force’ the regime, as it was the case for the second audit of the recall accepted solely due to the ‘auspices’ of OAS and Carter representatives- to implement unwanted parameters of transparency and accountability.

Two possible scenarios

From my cushy pad in W1, I can visualize two outcomes. The first, and by far the more exciting, would be the implosion of chavismo. Anger and discontent among rank and file chavistas is augmenting by the day for the candidates to represent the ruling party in the regional elections have been appointed by Hugo Chavez, who as a totalitarian leader is not aware of the term consensus. As such one can see how grassroots movements and aspiring politicos are openly questioning the mechanisms used to designate who runs where. The case argued tells us that they do not want to be subject to past faux pas where candidates were imposed from the top and postulations were announced irrespective of what the base thought of it. Exemplary case is the announcement made by the Bolivarian Circle of Barcelona (Anzoategui state) whereby they affirm that support will not be lent to the candidates imposed from Caracas. Tarek William Saab, replied with threats stating that those who do not comply with the party policy would self exclude themselves from the MVR. Bluntness is the characteristic of others, who have gone as far as challenging Hugo Chavez publicly to allow for the bases to decide.

In the meanwhile OPEC’s recently approved quotas are, yet again, inexplicably disrespected by Venezuela. Readers may think, how is oil related to elections and political campaigning? In that regard I will only say that loyalty towards Hugo Chavez and his permanence in power are inextricably linked to his ability to muster support, which needs be emphasized, comes with a very hefty price tag. As PDVSA’s output capacity continues to diminish and the necessity to give away control of the industry surges, Venezuela is ill equipped to profit from the current market prices, much less to pretend to maintain its income, by way of lobbying other OPEC members that are only too happy to see their quotas increased. Times of scarcity are ahead -should the government’s policy of not taking advantage of the situation be kept- and an ever growing payroll is not advisable, therefore only the ones chosen by Chavez can enter the official club. It is going to be amusing to see how the events develop for everyone in the chavista camp feels equally righted to join the loot and those already at it do not fancy unnecessary competition. So perhaps chavismo is going to implode owing to internal disputes.

The BBC aired a programme about the IRA, Gerry Adams and what is perceived by some as the end of the armed struggle in Northern Ireland a couple of days ago. I find fascinating that Gerry Adams can say with ease to BBC reporters that sometimes armed struggle is necessary to achieve certain goals. Not a solution in itself, it was argued that it brings the needed attention from the powers that be to acknowledge the necessity of political compromise. This brings me to the second less rosy scenario. Radicals within the opposition have been appeased all this time by the moderates that felt that every democratic solution had to be exhausted; however word in the street is that the moderates had their chance and failed and other unorthodox methods need to be implemented in order to successfully oust an individual that has ominous control over the State. The media remains as the sole power that Hugo Chavez does not control, although the legislature has been instructed to change that with the passing of the gag law. Hence what alternatives are left for the opposition? How does one deal with a whimsical political opponent that has all the branches of power subjugated? People are desperate, they feel cornered and abandoned by the international community, which is something positive for it was mere wishful thinking to believe that said amoral and surreal entity was going to react against Chavez. Ja ja!! As if the UN or the OAS had ever reacted in timely fashion.

Violence seems to be the only way out for some, either way I very much doubt that Hugo Chavez will remain in the presidency for more than three years.

To conclude, to vote or not to vote matters not. Chavez, via the CNE, has for the time being the final word.

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