Archive for July 2010
President Hugo Chavez raised the Bolivarian revolution’s intensity to new heights in the past month; at least, that’s how it appears after a month-long break from blogging to watch every World Cup game with my soccer-crazed wife on a 65” Samsung HDTV in a location where power outages don’t happen daily.
Returning to the reality of Venezuela after a month inside a self-made soccer cocoon is like waking up with a bad hangover without having tasted even a drop of alcohol. But at least it’s raining regularly.
Chavez recently has been in what I can only describe as accelerated tilt-a-whirl mode. But it’s unlikely that any of Chavez’s recent rhetoric and actions is impulsive or unplanned.
Chavez might strike a lot of his critics as being at least slightly unhinged, but during 11-plus years in power he has outmaneuvered his opponents over and over…and over again.
In the past 5-6 weeks, President Chavez has:
*Built the legal framework of new institutions of governance that will displace at the president’s will all of the elected local, state and national assembly.
It doesn’t matter if the political opposition wins a majority in the next National Assembly. Chavez already has created the mechanisms that will inflict upon the next assembly the same fiscal strangulation that was inflicted on Antonio Ledezma when he was elected governor of Greater Caracas.
The Federal Council of Government chaired by Chavez will govern Venezuela at every level through communal councils that will be organized by neighborhood (barrio) and even by street, if necessary.
The communal councils will have final say on all economic and social matters, including what the communes will produce, how it will be distributed, what people should act, how people should act or think, etc.
Really, it’s that extreme. Read carefully all of the laws approved and pending approval since the start of 2010, and the intent and direction of the regime is very clear.
*Enacted land reform legislation that authorizes the regime to seize control of the entire food production chain whenever it wishes.
When the Pdval putrid food scandal first exploded many weeks ago, Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez declared publicly that the regime’s goal is to acquire complete control over the entire food chain. The regime already accounts for 32% of the food chain, according to some estimates I can’t vouch for.
It remains to be seen if the incompetent Chavez regime can ever gain full control of the food sector. But a great lesson of the Cuban revolution for a still-flowering despot like Chavez is this: control the food supply and you control the people.
*Accelerated the process of approving new rental legislation that gives renters the right to stay forever in leased dwellings even if they don’t pay their rent, basically. This legislation completely strips all rights from property owners who rent their assets out.
*Declared war against Venezuela’s Catholic Church hierarchy by repeatedly savaging Cardinal Jorge Urosa and accusing him of having links to groups that have been conspiring to topple Chavez for years now. The road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops, St John Chrysostom is said to have remarked
*The Foreign Ministry issued a statement today condemning the alleged incursion into Venezuelan air space a week ago by three aircraft flights that originated in Dutch territory (Netherland Antilles). The last time Caracas accused Dutch authorities of facilitating foreign invasions of Venezuelan air space, it produced threats by Energy Minister Ramirez that Pdvsa might retaliate by terminating its lease to operate Curacao’s Isla Refinery, which shut down on 1 March 2010 due to a power outage and reportedly still is not fully operational.
Then there’s the very strange case of Francisco Chávez Abarca, allegedly a citizen of El Salvador and longtime associate of Luis Posada Carriles, the very old Miami-based anti-castrisra who for decades has topped Fidel’s list of world’s most wanted felons.
I won’t go into much detail, because there’s so much out there already. But this truly qualifies as weird, unusual, incredible, suspicious…take your pick.
If the news reports quoting mostly Chavez regime officials are believable, a longtime black ops professional like Chávez Abarca, whose links to Posada Carriles have been known for years by Havana, traveled freely (though some reports say that he was drugged and kidnapped in Central America) to Cuban intelligence-infested Venezuela to meet several still-unidentified persons near Caracas to make plans to do… what? Organize street protests, create violence, destabilize the regime, or even assassinate Chavez?
The regime showed Chávez Abarca to the local news media, during which he admitted that he was, in fact, conspiring against the Chavez regime, but with whom?
Then Sebin intelligence service (formerly Disip) arrested Alejandro Pena Esclusa, possibly the regime’s most vocal conservative critic in Venezuela. From his cell at Sebin HQ, Pena Esclusa e-mailed an old column he wrote years ago in which he accused Gustavo Cisneros of trying to destroy Pena Esclusa’s personal life and professional career.
Cisneros and Chavez have been allies since Jimmy Carter intermediated in 2004, Pena Esclusa added.
Interior & Justice Minister Tarek al-Assaimi says that “more arrests” are imminent in the ongoing “investigation” of Chávez Abarca, who is already in Cuba being debriefed in depth by Fidel’s experienced interrogation specialists.
The Chávez Abarca case reeks of set-up and double or even triple cross; and if this assumption is right, it means that the hand of Fidel and his most hardcore supporters in the Cuban regime is stirring up something.
I first blogged about General Henry Rangel Silva, General Hugo Carvajal and former Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin in August and September 2009. Here and here are two posts from that time.
Less than a year later, this deadly trio of gangsters is more entrenched than ever at the top of the Bolivarian revolution, where their primary mission is to enforce the will of President Hugo Chavez.
President Chavez just appointed Army Major General Rangel Silva as the new Strategic Operational Commander of the Bolivarian Armed Forces of Venezuela (FAN).
Rangel Silva now has direct command authority over all strategic and tactical operations undertaken by any branch of the FAN.
In the formal chain-of-command, Rangel Silva is now the FAN’s strategic and tactical second-in-command, after President Chavez.
General Rangel Silva also is one of the top gangsters and enforcers of the Chavez regime.
Rangel Silva was the head of the Interior & Justice Ministry’s intelligence & counter-intelligence service (Disip) from 2005-2009.
In September 2008 the US Treasury Department designated Rangel Silva as a lower-tier kingpin “for materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a narco-terrorist organization.”
But Rangel Silva did not leave Disip until 2009 after he was implicated directly by Colombia’s military intelligence service in a smuggling scheme that delivered to the FARC at least two Swedish-made portable rockets owned by Venezuela’s Army.
However, Rangel Silva was too valuable to Chavez to be put out to pasture. Rangel Silva is very tight with the FARC, and always will do anything that the president asks, without exception or question.
Chavez appointed Rangel Silva commander of the FAN’s Guayana strategic region, which shares borders with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.
In that capacity, Rangel Silva escaped the potential political heat in Caracas for a year (nothing happened). He oversaw the FAN’s strategy and operations in the largest expanse of unguarded territory in Venezuela, and the richest in terms of non-oil resources like gold, diamonds, uranium, bauxite and other minerals.
When Rangel Silva left Disip, it was rechristened as the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) and Colonel Miguel Rodriguez Torres was named head of the new Sebin. Rodriguez Torres was just promoted to brigadier general and reconfirmed as Sebin’s director.
Rodriguez Torres is a very close and trusted associate of former Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, who like Rangel Silva also was designated a kingpin by the US Treasury in September 2008 for materially cooperating with the FARC.
Rodriguez Chacin is President Chavez’s longtime personal liaison to the FARC’s top leaders. Rodriguez Chacin has served in this role for 16 years, since Chavez first sat down with FARC leaders in northeastern Colombia in 1994 to negotiate the broad outlines of an enduring strategic alliance that allows FARC leaders and fighters to operate from Venezuelan territory since he became president in 1999.
But Rodriguez Chacin’s personal ties to the FARC date from the early 1980s when he operated in Apure state with a government multi-agency counterinsurgency task force called Cejap.
General Hugo Carvajal, the third senior Venezuelan intelligence official designated as a material collaborator of the FARC in September 2008, apparently didn’t get a big promotion like his associate Rangel Silva. But “El Pollo” Carvajal remains in charge of the Defense Ministry’s intelligence division (DGIM).
Carvajal is very tight with the FARC and also the National Liberation Army (ELN).
But the growing Cuban influence in Venezuela’s defense ministry where all important decisions are now made by a Cuban general suggests two things:
One, Carvajal will be reined in by Havana and controlled more tightly to prevent new scandals implicating Bolivarian intelligence and military personnel with international narco-terrorist groups.
Or, two, Carvajal is working more closely now with both the FARC and Cuban military intelligence. Havana’s strategic interests include strengthening the Cuban regime’s grip on Venezuela and continuing to stoke conflict in Colombia.