The Bolivarian Revolution is obsessed with wild ideas about presidential assassination conspiracies and massively slaughtering all of its real and imaginary enemies.
President Hugo Chavez is the chief proponent and conductor of these ideas – and whatever Chavez says is faithfully parroted by his followers.
Recently, National Assembly Deputy Calixto Ortega, a radical chavista, warned that if President Chavez is assassinated Venezuela will experience a civil war similar to what Colombia suffered after leftist leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitán was killed by a lone gunman on 9 April, 1948.
Gaitán’s assassination triggered the Bogotazo, rioting in which up to 5,000 persons were killed and thousands more injured, followed by decades of civil conflict which killed over 200,000 more, eventually sparking the birth of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – which today are strategic and political allies of the Chavez regime.
Then Public Works Minister Diosdado Cabello made even a harsher threat on national television. Speaking at a meeting of the regional leadership of the PSUV held in San Carlos Army Barracks in downtown Caracas, Cabello accused the opposition (including the private news media) of “trying to convert the Venezuelan into someone capable of hating.”
“Oligarchs of the opposition, do not attempt anything because caracas will give the example again. Do not attempt anything outside the law, do not attempt any ‘arrebaton’ (rough translation, adventure), nor any strike (‘zarpazo’), nor any short cut (‘atajo’), because the ‘pueblo’ of Caracas with give you a decisive/conclusive (‘contundente’) response…you will receive a response that not even you expect and we are not ‘mamando gallo’ (kidding/bluffing) about this.”
Cabello stressed that the PSUV and other followers of the Chavez government are prepared to respond lethally. “Don’t complain later,” Cabello warned.
The threats of mass slaughter made by Chavez, Cabello, Ortega and other senior Chavez regime figures like Jose Vicente Rangel (aka Grima Wormtongue) are always directed against the political opposition
This opposition includes all of the political parties that recently created the Table of Unity (link), plus Accion Democratica, whose leader Henry Ramos Allup doesn’t think much of the idea of “uniting” the opposition.
The list of “enemies” deserving of mass slaughter also certainly includes the voters who signed petitions supporting Chavez’s recall in August 2004, and everyone else (i.e. democratic civil society) who doesn’t blindly follow his plans to be Venezuela’s emperor-for-life, and commander-in-chief of a radical Marxist hemispheric revolution.
The problem is that these opposition groups, collectively, are sort of like the Pillsbury Doughboy.
They do not represent any threat to Chavez’s life or the stability of his regime. They aren’t the people thundering around Caracas heavily armed on black, olive green and cop-blue motorcycles without license plates, or crewing armed groups like the Tupamaros, La Piedrita and Lina Ron’s gangster bikers. Nope.
The political opposition receiving public death threats from the likes of Public Works Minister Cabello is committed to winning elections democratically – which is a sysyphean task considering that Chavez controls the National Electoral Council, Supreme Court and National Assembly.
Chavez has the power to rig election outcomes in his favor, and he uses that power in a pinch, like in August 2004 and more recently.
If the opposition is as tough as marshmallows, then why is the regime making these foaming-mouth threats of mass slaughter?
One obvious objective is to inflict fear and anxiety within the ranks of the opposition, and among the populace in general.
But Caracas Gringo believes the real threat to Chavez is deeply entrenched in his own back yard.
The Bolivarian Revolution can be divided broadly into two factions: the true believers and the so-called Bolibourgeois or nouveau right which is making billionaire fortunes inside the regime, including some very senior regime ministers with longtime close ties to Chavez.
There are also competing/conflicting military and civilian factions inside the regime, but historically the military faction has been more powerful.
However, Chavez can never be completely certain that he controls the armed forces completely.
That is why he created the Bolivarian Civilian Militia, commanded by presidentially handpicked officers who report directly to President Chavez.
Many of the the 100,000 new AK-103/104 assault rifles reportedly were quietly distributed to elite groups inside this militia.
President Chavez also commands the loyalty and support of Military Intelligence (DGIM) chief, General Hugo Carvajal; Interior & Justice Ministry political police (Disip) chief Henry Rangel Silva; and former Interior & Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (who also has been Chavez’s personal liaison with the FARC’s top leaders since the latter half of the 1990s).
Also, President Chavez’s political party, the PSUV, has armed factions throughout Caracas and other cities.
Many of these armed groups linked with PSUV’s command/control hierarchy (which Cabello heads in Caracas, reporting to President Chavez) were created originally as Bolivarian Circles, or within security entities like PoliCaracas, the Metropolitan Police, Pdvsa’s PCP (internal security), the Libertador municipal government, and central government entities like the Education, Labor and Environment Ministries.
The Chavez regime also has the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FBL), which is deployed mainly along the border with Colombia, ranging from Apure to Zulia. The FBL reportedly numbers some 3,000 armed fighters, and trains with the FARC, which has several hundred fighters hiding inside Venezuelan territory at any given moment.
The FBL and FARC rule the streets and surrounding region in Guasdualito in Apure state, just across the bridge from Arauca in Colombia. However, the FBL also has urban cells in Valencia, Maracay and Caracas.
There is no doubt that President Chavez has awesome firepower at his disposal to face any external, and presumably also any internal threats to his longevity in power.
But are all these armed groups 100% loyal to the Bolivarian Caesar?
At what point could there be a clash between the zealot true believers and the pragmatic, in-it-for-the-money Bolibourgeois? What might trigger a clash within the revolution?
What position would be staked out in any conflict between the Bolivarian zealots and Bolibourgois pragmatists by the powerful criminal state-within-the-revolution whose chairman recently sat at the president’s right-hand during a live televised appearance in which Chavez appeared to be barely lucid?
The Cuban regime has powerful vested economic, strategic and geopolitical interests in Bolivarian Venezuela. So do China, Iran and Russia. What position would these strategic allies of the Chavez regime take in a civil war within the revolution?
Finally, where does the “pueblo” fit in this uncertain but volatile puzzle?
The political opposition isn’t going to take up arms against the Chavez regime, and it won’t try to assassinate President Chavez. The opposition doesn’t have the stomach or training for black ops and coups.
The opposition believes that democracy eventually will prevail over tyranny more or less peacefully, as it has in other far more repressive countries since the late 1980s.
And this belief frightens the Chavez regime, which always responds with threats and state/physical intimidation.
But the armed forces and state security/intelligence services are always a big potential problem for any dictator. Loyalties tend to come with a high economic price.
Perhaps that’s why Chavez looks the other way while the heads of DGIM and Disip run their criminal rackets, which range from protecting drug traffickers and drug trans-shipments, to guarding FARC and ELN leaders, providing drug dealers and Marxist terrorists with legal Venezuelan documents, and doing contract killings.
Keep your friends close, but your enemies even closer, Machiavelli counseled. How close to Chavez could his most dangerous enemies be today?
Could the Bolivarian Revolution survive without Chavez?
The power transfer from Fidel to younger brother Raul Castro appears to be going smoothly. The Cuban regime’s elite power cadres appear confident they can survive nicely after the brothers descend to hell.
If the Cuban revolution can survive without the Castros, why can’t the Bolivarian revolution survive nicely without Chavez?
As long as oil prices are very high – and some say $250/bl oil is just over the horizon – lots of loyalties can be secured, including perhaps even the pueblo – if a post-Chavez revolutionary regime delivers what the pueblo wants most: better security, more money (direct subsidies).
It’s a relatively safe bet that many senior figures in the regime who view the revolution in terms more pragmatic than ideological probably ask themselves this question with some frequency.