Why is it that Washington always misreads Chavez & Venezuela?

The Washington post published this opinion piece – Closing in on Hugo Chavez – by veteran Colombian-US newsman Edward Schumacher-Matos.

“The beginning of the end is setting in for Hugo Chávez,” says Schumacher-Matos.

“The authoritarian Venezuelan president is holding a referendum (today) on a constitutional change that would allow him to run for president indefinitely. Pollsters say Chávez leads slightly, but the election is mostly irrelevant. Barring an oil miracle, the former army paratrooper is slowly being undone by his economic mismanagement and corruption, like any of a number of populist strongmen before him.”

“Oil prices may recover somewhat from their current lows of around $40 a barrel, but not soon and not anywhere near the more than $80 a barrel that Chávez needs to stave off a major currency devaluation that would stoke rampaging inflation and food shortages. His is a chronicle of a political death foretold, an old story that ended in most of Latin America in the 1980s but that Chávez and too many Venezuelans chose to revisit.”

The analysis makes some idiotic claims (i.e. the election is mostly irrelevant), and misses the point by a country mile.

The end for Chavez has not started yet because:

*Chavez is Venezuela’s democratically elected president, a fact reaffirmed in 12 successive elections and referendums over the past decade. If Chavez is removed from power by force – whether by popular revolt, military coup or a palace coup – the US government, the Organization of American States, the European Union, etc. are obligated by their respective laws and institutional statutes to condemn the perpetrators of Chavez’s forced ouster from power. And if Chavez is killed in a forced ouster, the perpetrators would face prosecution in the International Criminal Court.

*There are no viable political heirs to Chavez. Zero, none. There are countless wannabes inside the regime, in the opposition and in the armed forces. But none of these individuals commands the popular support that Chavez enjoys among over half of the populace. If Chavez gets taken out, there would be conflict between radical revolutionaries and the Bolivarian bourgeoisie which has amassed immense wealth under Chavez. There also would be conflict within the armed forces, where NONE of the current crop of corrupt, bootlicker generals and admirals commands the support and loyalty of the troops. And, certainly, the old satraps of the Fourth Republic (AD/Copei) would try to make a comeback, though they are mostly despised by the populace. Apres Chavez, le deluge.

Today’s referendum is very relevant because:

*If Chavez, and all of his corrupt Bolivarian associates now holding elected public office, win the right to seek re-election indefinitely, it’s almost certain that a corrupt National Assembly will lose no time amending the constitution to lengthen the president’s term from six years now to perhaps ten years. Then a corrupt National Electoral Council likely will accept “popular demands” to hold “new” presidential elections which Chavez will win fraudulently, assuring he stays in power democratically until the next elections are held at the end of 2018.

*The question in the referendum is so vague that it opens the door for a Chavez-controlled National Assembly to amend the constitution to include ALL the proposed socialist/fascist changes that were rejected by voters in December 2007.

*If Chavez wins, the regime will intensify state (and non-state) repression of all political opponents and dissidents.

Of course, if Chavez loses, there also would be more state and non-state repression of the opposition. However, if the president loses the referendum, his political horizon shrinks to only four more years, whereas if Chavez wins his political horizon becomes literally indefinite.

If Chavez wins the referendum, his next priority is to survive the next 18-24 very difficult months for Venezuela’s economy. But since it will be obvious to all within a few months that US stimulus bill drafted exclusively by congressional democrats is doomed to fail, Chavez should find it relatively easy to explain Venezuela’s collapse in the context of a much larger US and global economic downturn.

Venezuela will have an annus horribilis in 2009 and at least the first half of 2010, and Chavez will unleash more repression if that’s what’s needed to prevent economic crisis from unleashing social and political turmoil. But by 2011 (if not much sooner) the price of oil will be rising quickly again because the Obama stimulus plan can’t change the fact that the world’s crude oil production and refining capacity already is terribly insufficient for meeting future projected demand growth.

Stupid is as stupid does, says Forrest Gump. And when it comes to US policymakers and US editorial pundits pontificating about Chavez and Venezuela, stupid certainly does…

About Caracas Gringo

Representing less than 0.00000000001515152% of the world population as of 31 December 2011.
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