Former Vice-President/Defense/Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel warned on his 22 February Sunday television show “Jose Vicente Hoy” that the Bolivarian Revolution of President Hugo Chavez “could founder…due to exhausting daily conflictiveness.”
Rangel’s televised warning came two days after Chavez rejected on 18 February any type of pact with the “defeated oligarchy” following his 15 February referendum victory by a margin of 54.86% to 45.13%, according to the CNE.
Rangel said on 20 February that the outcome of the 15 February referendum on Chavez’s bid to win perpetual re-election rights confirmed Venezuelans are “divided…and this division is tending to accentuate, though it hasn’t resulted in violence yet.”
To keep violence from erupting in Venezuela, there must be a political “aperture…and ghetto politics must be abandoned.” Rangel said.
Venezuela’s “political factors…are obligated to seek formulas that will facilitate easing tensions…the arrogance of the winner is a mistake, as is the arrogance of the loser…I would go even further in the classification: it’s a stupidity,” Rangel added.
Very unusual remarks from Rangel (aka Grima Wormtongue), considering that he sided with the Chavez regime’s radical factions in backing the president’s plan to slaughter his political opponents in April 2002.
Before 11 April 2002, Rangel met with the coutnry’s largest bankers and threatened them with government sanctions if they joined the national business and labor strike called jointly by Fedecamaras and the CTV.
While at the Fort Tiuna on 11 April, at the building where the Defense Ministry’s offices traditionally had been located until Rangel (who historically was despised viscerally by the military) was appointed defense minister, Rangel was seen and heard semi-hysterically issuing orders by cellular telephone to “call the ‘pueblo revolucionario’ to descend from the barrios and defend their president with sticks, rocks….”
In Miraflores presidential palace in the early evening of 11 April 2002, Rangel urged Chavez to fortify the palace “…and fight to the last man, the last breath… Make a stand here and give the world a lesson…let’s see if these ‘escualidos’ can take us.”
When Chavez insisted instead on negotiating with the rebellious army officers at Fort Tiuna, Rangel raged at the president “…eres un cobarde….la historia no te va a perdonar.”
A former government intelligence and Disip official who has known Rangel personally for the past 35-40 years says JVR “doesn’t believe in anything except power and history…not heaven or hell, sex, wealth or anything else.”
So why is JVR, a longtime co-conspirator with Chavez to dismantle Venezuela’s democratic institutions and kill the president’s political enemies, now calling publicly on Pfresident Chavez and the opposition leadership to open a two-way dialoque to rescue the nation from erupting in a civil war?
The plot thickened on 26 February when Teodoro Petkoff published an editorial in Tal Cual saying he was certain JVR’s warning was “an exclusive message to call the attention of President Chavez and (was) not directed at the opposition.”
Petkoff said JVR is not an official spokesman, but an “interlocutor” of the government because of his relation with “high commands of the revolution” – i.e. bolibourgeosie revolutionaries like Diosdado Cabello, for example – though it’s said by some that Cabello reportedly despises Rangel.
Petkoff also argued that Rangel has urged Chavez to “recognize the opposition… without disavowing or disqualifying” the revolution’s democratic opponents.
“It’s difficult to not agree with the conclusions of Rangel,” he added, but then asks whether anyone in the government (i.e. Chavez) heed JVR’s warning?
A colleague who knows Petkoff very well thinks “Teo… is secretly very concerned that Chavez could unleash violence at any moment… he knows Chavez and the group now in power will not hesitate to shoot and kill to keep what they have gained… no van a soltar el coroto por ningun motivo, ni para nadie…”
Perhaps our colleague is correct.
Perhaps JVR’s surprising call to Chavez, followed by Petkoff’s editorial endorsement of JVR’s remarks, reflects the concerns of two wise old men who have spent their entire political careers on the far left of Venezuelan politics (though Petkoff apparently moved towards the center after the Berlin Wall came down near the end of 1989, reinventing himself as a European-style moderate socialist a la Felipe Gonzalez of Spain).
But Venezuelan politics is rarely, if ever, what it appears to be superficially. As Jose Antonio Gil Yepes wrote in the 1970s, Venezuela is a “Sociedad de Complices” – a society of accomplices.
JVR is a brilliant but fundamentally evil individual. Everything JVR says has two, three or even more meanings – and audiences. He is a skilled manipulator of the news media and a confirmed disseminator of misinformation and lies.
Petkoff is perhaps the only former radical Marxist guerrilla in Venezuela who is respected by at least two generations of Venezuelans on the right. But over the past decade, Petkoff’s frequent swings from apparent apologist for the regime to acerbic critic and back again suggest that old revolutionary dreams (habits?) persist.
JVR and Petkoff have been “comrade travelers” for the past 50-plus years, but reportedly they were never close personally and in recent years have been in opposite camps.
But the Venezuelan people aren’t fond of Petkoff: When Rosales, Petkoff and Borges commissioned national polls in mid-2006 to decide amogst themselves who would be the opposition presidential candidate, Petkoff placed a distant third out of three.
*Are JVR and Petkoff worried that political violence or civil conflict could erupt as soon as this year?
Caracas Gringo thinks the chances of violent street protests will increase in coming months as the economy’s crisis bites hard. However, JVR and Petkoff presumably are in a better position than most to know about these things, given their contacts with “senior” people in the revolution (both inside and outside the government).
*Are JVR and Petkoff trying to head off potential civil/military revolts involving some figures normally associated with the opposition?
*Or, perhaps, JVR and Petkoff are trying to ease growing tensions inside the Bolivarian revolution by urging Chavez to mend fences with the political opposition before the most radical elements of the revolution revolt?
In January 2009, Venezuela’s most famously unrepentant Marxist militant, the septuagenarian but still very spry Douglas Bravo, warned that “true revolutionaries” inside and outside the government, including the oil industry and the military, could revolt this year and set things right.
These true revolutionaries will confront the “Bolibourgeoisie right inside the regime and the classic right” at the same time, and will defeat both, Bravo predicted.
[Caracas Gringo thinks there is a significant risk of a major confrontation in 2009 between organized labor and the Chavez regime.]
But the regime isn’t disposed to talk with anyone. Vice President Ramon Carrizalez said late on 26 February that there would be no dialogue with the leaders of the opposition. But the government is “always willing” to dialogue, he added.