THE COWARDLY LION
With apologies to the Wizard of Oz. The news yesterday was that "finally" the government was going to move against the coup mongers of April 2002. Let's revisit that day and examine the ridicule of the situation and speculate on the true intentions behind that show.
APRIL 2002 AND FOLLOWING
After a week of protest, a giant march went (was detoured?) to Miraflores Palace. The president asked for Plan Avila, to put down the march. The Army, sensing the potential for a blood bath that this security operation implied, refused. A few confusing hours followed that left a few dozen casualties in downtown Caracas. In the middle of the night came to TV the Army Chief of Staff, General Lucas Rincon, announcing that Chavez had resigned. (1)
Based on the resignation TV announcement a group of people decided to let Pedro Carmona Estanga form a government. While Carmona accumulated a series of political errors, a group within the Army decided to bring back Chavez. Carmona was so briefly in office that his nomination could not even be registered and published in Gazeta Oficial, the act that makes any law or decree legal in Venezuela. Technically the "Carmona administration" never existed in spite of the famous swearing him decree that abolished democracy to save it.
The returning Chavez tried to have the military that refused to follow his orders jailed for coup attempt. But in August the High Court of Venezuela ruled that the military could not be judged for sedition: there was no military coup but a power vacuum that led to naming Carmona president. Chavez was not amused.
Through 2002 and 2003 chavismo maneuvered to recover full control of the judiciary system by finally passing a new law allowing packing of the high court. Finally in 2004 took place the removal of the judge that did write the August 2002 ruling, a case of shooting the messenger if any. Other judges have been forced into retirement since and now the High Court is probably poised to revisit the issue, this time in favor of Chavez. This of course will be helped with the "victory" at the polls in August which can be used if necessary as a claim of the people for "justice". Let me explain
Yesterday Danilo Anderson, the prosecutor in charge of the glamour political cases (Capriles, Puente Llaguno, etc,…) has been charged by the General Prosecutor to "investigate" all the people that were at the Carmona swearing in ceremony. Not only the few that signed the decree, but all those that just happened to be there, or that even had the bad taste to declare to the media in favor of Carmona or agaisnt Chavez actions (even if they did so before the reading of the now infamous decree?). We are talking of several hundred people here, most of them having no further involvement that an "atta boy!" towards Carmona. I saw on TV Mr. Anderson say that these people would be investigated to see into which category the "suspects" will fall. In the long list of categories, I did not hear "innocent bystander", leading me to think that they are all already somewhat guilty before trial.
Mr. Anderson, whose official title is prosecutor for environmental crimes (pollution, ecological devastation), has now been officially declared the Fouquier-Tinville of our glorious bolivarian revolution (2). It is to be noted, as I understand, that even OpEd writers that declared that the fall of Chavez was justified could be prosecuted. And from there to prosecute the media themselves, any excuse would do.
The first fact that should stimulate the reader's intelligence is: if the April 2002 support of Carmona was such a heinous crime against the Venezuelan state, and Chavez, why did we have to wait until September 2004, more than 2 years later, for their investigation?
Questions follow. How come this investigation was not already done by the independent and non partisan commission that was supposed to be set after the agreements of May 2003 between the opposition and the government? Where is that commission that should investigate the responsibilities of BOTH sides? How can the judicial system account for such an unacceptable delay when all sorts of videos and documents exist that should have been able to be used against these alleged criminal long ago? And many more questions that the reader can easily guess.
But the answers are easier to come up with than the reader might imagine.
The objective, now more than ever, is to quell down the opposition as soon as possible.
- First, it is yet a controversial move that should make people talk of something else but the electoral fraud.
- Second, it certainly is intimidation, in particular against Zulia governor who did sign the Carmona decree and who rides high in the Zulia polls.
- Third, Chavez knows that the international opinion is distracted away from Venezuela so it is a golden opportunity to make a few unsavory moves before they start having second thoughts again on his regime.
- Fourth, Chavez knows well that an opposition that has survived worst disasters than August 15 (April 2002, the general strike) could bounce back sooner than expected. He must decapitate once and for all the opposition leadership, and surely a few could finally bite the dust with this, oh, so delayed move.
- Fifth, any trial that starts following Anderson's "investigation" will be a good opportunity for the High Court to reverse itself, and thus the Great Beloved Leader will be proven right.
- And last but not least, Chavez is a vengeful character. Without even mentioning the opposition, chavismo is littered with people that have met Chavez disgust. These people, if anything, have been crucified with even more scorn than the one used against the opposition. This is the nature of the man, humiliate, strike back through convenient lackeys. Reconciliation is not in his vocabulary, or as a synonym to submission. That is why no election, no matter how cleanly won it might be, will ever satisfy him. He will always need to crush his enemies, or buy them, or create new ones if he succeeds in the first two tasks.
(1) For those who are interested in an objective account of these days, as possible as that can be, I recommend the book "El Acertijo de Abril", unfortunately in Spanish, but worth the effort if you can read some Spanish.
(2) Fouquier-Tinville was the general prosecutor during the "Terror" period of the French Revolution. Thus he has become the archetype of a distinguished series of prosecutors that have packed all sort of courts with political opponents from Stalin to Hittler and from Castro to Pinochet, not forgetting the Cultural Revolution in China. He ended up under the guillotine where he sent so many "citoyens".
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