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By Daniel Duquenal

The last hours of the CD? I am for a few days in Caracas, giving me a good opportunity to "feel the political atmosphere". Sunday and Monday El Nacional published an interview with Accion Democratica chief (AD), Ramos Allup, and an article from Armando Duran.

The first one defended his actions of Monday 16 August. His 4 AM announcement denouncing the fraud was good, but his explanations on why no one called for protest not as good. Certainly a useless risk of violence should have been considered and rightly Ramos indicates that a few hot heads that called for a protest that Monday on Plaza Altamira where not present when people got shot and one woman died. But this is disingenuous and Ramos is shielding behind this statement in avoidance of taking any precise position in regard to the fraud, past or future.

But Ramos Allup might have a few problems. The rumours, and I cannot detect anything that contradict them so far, is that the Coordinadora Democratica, CD, is imploding as a result of its lousy responses on August 16 and thereafter. Its leader Enrique Mendoza is already out under the excuse of needing to defend his Miranda state, suddenly more vulnerable than expected. Pompeyo Marquez (1) nomination seems every day more like a last political gift to the old leader, using his experience to avoid the debacle of the CD. Today I heard that Primero Justicia is about to leave the CD, which would be quite a blow, and the starting of a stampede which immeasurable consequences.

Governors and mayors are becoming restless and do not want the CD to determine the campaign strategies. In general they do not want to preach abstention but a more militant action if they cannot get from the CNE corrections to a now totally discredited electoral system. One implication of this "rebellion" might be a failure to reach unity in a few key states and thus risking to handle them on a silver platter to chavismo. On the other hand they could be creating a new strategy more efficient, if more violence prone, to avoid further fraud. My own state governor, Eduardo Lapi (2), very disliked by the CD to the point of having been refused the nomination (because he has quite often publicly disagreed with them) is the first governor to have started actively elaborating "alternative plans", not disclosed yet.

In other words it seems that the CD is unravelling fast before it even had a chance to prepare an orderly succession to some new structure. I suppose that this is the price to pay to have been too overconfident, too heterogeneous, and thus quickly abandoned even by those who directed it and do not want to be pointed as the guilty parties. But people will know and the piper will have to be paid.

The article of Armando Duran buried the CD neatly. As I wrote long ago, with or without fraud, the result of August 15 is the same due to the ineptness of the CD. The unwilling consequence is the rapid realignment of the establishment in Venezuela. The political leadership of the opposition having been so defeated, certain sectors have decided to swallow their repugnance at dealing with a corrupt administration and seek some form of cohabitation. This is exactly what Chavez was seeking to further his legitimacy, making thus the question of legitimacy irrelevant.

From a good source, bloggers do have sources too, it seems that Chavez has given the order to forget and forgive the names of those who signed against him. Although I doubt that we will be forgotten as a CD-ROM with the name list can always come back if needed, it does show certain pragmatism. And a surprising acknowledgment of the strength of the opposition! That is, Chavez recognizes that indeed at the very least 40% of the people are totally opposed to him and he just cannot rule a country where so many people wish him ill. As I pointed out earlier, that also means that perhaps as much as 80% of the professional class will refuse to cooperate with his administration. There is only so many top notch managers that Chavez can hire from overseas for the oil industry, and even less of other economical aspects. He must thus try to convince a few in Venezuela to relent. Money? Forgiveness? We'll see what works.

But perhaps Chavez has learned his lesson. He would need to kill the opposition and we are just too many. Now that he seems well on his way to stay until 2012, he perhaps wants less stormy seas, at least until he can find a way to convince them or subject them once and for all. Perhaps Duran is right in his assessment that perhaps suddenly Chavez is having second thoughts about his "revolution" and what matters most for him is staying power. As has happened all throughout our history.

However my source seems to believe that if Chavez is forgiving the signatures against him, he is indeed decided to pursue those who signed the April 12, 2002, and the general strike leaders. The Carmona decree could force into exile or lead to jail a few dozen folks. And I will tell you what: too bad for them. Whether this was a coup, one thing is certain, they failed. If I oppose Chavez mainly for his managerial incompetence, I am certainly not going to defend a group of people whose errors and political incompetence have resulted in an opposition today in such disarray and a Chavez with so much power. They gambled, they lost, and they should assume their responsibilities, just as they would have liked Chavez to assume his. Such are politics.

Meanwhile Chavez is having new problems that can only incite him further along this pragmatic line. An obscure massacre in the Apure border state was a little too fast attributed to Colombian paramilitaries. Well, today the truth cannot be hidden much longer and the FARC seems indeed the guilty party, supposedly because it got miffed at some obstacles put on his lucrative kidnapping and extortion business in Venezuela (3). This is too bad as Chavez publicly on his Sunday show said that the FARC had nothing to do with the massacre in Apure (4). Whether this was the reason or a mechanical problem in his fine airplane, Chavez decided to suddenly skip the UN annual gathering where he was supposed to be a star. Though idle tongues murmur that Lula was going to steal the show.

So this is the excitement in Caracas: the CD is in its last gasps, a new opposition system is about to be born and Chavez seems to have suddenly changed strategy, not to mention perhaps being forced to change allies!


(1) Pompeyo Marquez is an old ex guerilla who eventually discovered the merit of dialogue and democracy. He even reached a ministerial position in the 90ies. Since 1998 has been an opponent to Chavez, part of that left that from the very beginning decried the authoritarian nature of Chavez.

(2) Eduardo Lapi was the representative of governors to the negotiation table of 2003. In May 2003 he did not want to sign the agreement and was "convinced" to do so. As recent events seem to prove him right, this might be the reason why AD in particular is so opposed at supporting him in Yaracuy. Even though all local polls give him a commanding lead.

(3) The feared Colombian FARC has been rumoured for years to have special deals with Chavez and to benefit from a blind eye from the Venezuelan military. If Chavez has tried to dismiss these ties, in spite of constant accumulation of evidence, the FARC is on record as supporting Chavez.

(4) Sorry, no time to look for links, but all the news reported have been heard at least two times from at least two different sources. I am too busy when I am in Caracas. I can only keep a good blogging pace in San Felipe, benefiting from its delightful provinciality, even as Governor Lapi threatens to make us the front line of civil disobedience!

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