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Emergency in Venezuela, but where is Chavez?

By Jorge Arena | Venezuela News and Views

09.02.05 | In El Nacional today Minister Jesse Chacon insures that the emergency state decree for the states of Falcon, Miranda, Aragua, Distrito Capital, Vargas, Yaracuy and Carabobo, will be signed today by President Hugo Chavez, during the ministers’ council meeting.

Chacon gave some numbers with respect to the number of families that have been affected. According to him, there are 995 affected families of which 115 had suffered damages and 57 are located in shelters. He insured that they have “total control of the emergency”.

Meanwhile, the MINCI site has no fresh news. They mentioned the same declarations given by minister Izarra yesterday night, the declarations of minister Chacon and the suspension of classes stated by education minister Isturiz.

El Universal reports that Vargas governor says that river El Cojo in Macuto overflowed. The minister of the environment, Jacqueline Faria underlines that there is not much drinking water for Vargas and that the rate is just 400 liters per second. It is still raining in Vargas and the colonial zone of Macuto is completely flooded.

So, I have been scanning official and private sites and have come up with declarations by several ministers: Izarra, Rangel, Isturiz, Chacon and Faria. But no word from the President!

The only time when a country really needs a caudillo is in times of crisis, and Chavez seems to fail miserably in those times. He is the leader and the strong man when it is time to insult his enemies or make sexist remarks about powerful women. He is not at all Television shy when he occupies the TV waves for 6 hours for Alo Presidente. So where is he now that the country really needs to know what is going on? I assume that he must be in Venezuela because Chacon said that he will be signing today the emergency decree. But even if he was not in Venezuela, I am sure that the President has the means to show the people of Venezuela that he is in charge, hasn’t he?

In 1999 in the aftermath of the Vargas tragedy, Chavez was not in charge, he was in La Orchila celebrating the victory of his Constitutional Referendum. Later, he failed to understand the magnitude of the disaster when he refused the coming aid from the United States. On the referendum day, instead of listening to the civil defense that had asked to stop the process, he called people to go to vote. He even used a famous Bolivar quote:

“Si la Naturaleza se opone, lucharemos contra ella, y haremos que nos obedezca”

“If Nature opposes us, we will fight against her and will make her obey”.

Maybe the Chavez ministers have learned the lesson and have hidden the president, just in case he now uses one of those quotes…

P.S1. Update from Miguel: it seems that the rain has lowered its intensity in particular in Caracas. It looks like the worse scenario is in Vargas, the rivers have overflowed and there is no way thru. Miguel's brother was able to get home but not his mom. They are scared and have no water or electricity.

PS2. From Unionradio (thanks for the pointer R). Minister Izarra asked the people vacationing in Vargas to be extremely careful (!!). Izarra (that at least is there informing people) said that this afternoon will take place the ministers' council (this afternoon!?!) to approve the financial resources. He asked the people living in Vargas to be patient and to wait for the Civil protection and the Armed Forces in case an evacuation scenario is necessary. My question is why wait? Is there anything different from 1999 when tens of thousands of people could have been saved if the goverment had evacuated them sooner? It is raining a lot like in 99, the mountain is still up there and it is still full of slums. Does the goverment has an evacuation contingency? Let us cross our fingers and hope they do.

Meanwhile, there are no news from Chavez, ...yet.

PS3. Check out the MINCI web page. They have changed the date on yesterday's news so that it looks that those are fresh news.

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