The PSUV held its national primaries on 2 May to choose its candidates for the 26 September National Assembly elections. The opposition held its primaries last Sunday. The regime’s senior figures, like Vice President Elias Jaua and Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello, are already boasting that the PSUV primaries were larger and more democratic than the opposition’s primaries last week.
But former Libertador Mayor Freddy Bernal, a longtime leader of the regime’s armed street thugs in Caracas, put the regime’s situation in perspective. “All of our heads are in play” in next September’s elections, he said.
PSUV leaders are already warning the revolutionary faithful that the party of President Hugo Chavez must win at least two-thirds of the seats up for grabs in September’s legislative elections. If the PSUV loses control of the National Assembly, Chavez loses a key rubber stamp for his whims.
But, really, how great is the pueblo’s faith today after 11-plus years of Chavez?
On 1 May, the Bolivarian revolution observed the annual international worker’s day holiday with a march in downtown Caracas. Judging by the signs marchers carried, every government office in the country sent a delegation.
Of course, it is mandatory for all government workers to attend all pro-government marches, when so ordered. Attendance is taken, and every government entity or office has a pre-assigned place in the march, making it easier to verify who is or isn’t present. No shows risk losing their jobs.
But sources who infiltrate pro-regime marches to observe the action up close say that there wasn’t much “pueblo” at the march. Over 90-95% appeared to be government workers.
Perhaps it was the heat. Temperatures reached 30C in Caracas on 1 May. The heat worsens the toxic mist hanging over the city due to rotting uncollected garbage, hundreds of thousands of vehicle exhausts, the ashes and soot of the Avila’s fires and other contaminants. Under Chavez, Caracas has become one of the filthiest capital cities in Latin America.
But much of the “pueblo” also appears to have lost faith in Chavez and the revolution.
A slumping economy, national power and water crises, chronic food shortages, the terrible insecurity everywhere, and rising “unemployment” now that government spending on missions has collapsed, have cut deeply into the president’s popularity.
Many “revolucionarios” who were on the dole now are looking for work in an economy where over 6,000 private manufacturers have shut down during the Chavez era.
One recent poll said that 70% of adult Venezuelans no longer trust in President Chavez. But that leaves a worrisome 30% who still trust their president, including many who may be committed enough to inflict violence on others if so ordered. This 30% includes the young civilian militia who train for war with shouts of “Maten a los Gringos” – Kill the Gringos.
No matter how bad things seem to be getting for Chavez, electorally speaking, we fear that the regime has sufficient resources to “win” the required two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. Call us pessimists, but we’re in that group of observers who think that when things look tough at the ballot box, the Chavez regime will rig the outcome in its favor.
It would suit Chavez to let the opposition win between 20-30% of the next legislature’s seats. That way, he could boast that the elections show that Bolivarian Socvialist Venezuela is more democratic even than the gringos, and meanwhile continue to do whatever he pleases on the road to becoming president-in-perpetuity.
He was clear about his intentions in Brazil just a week ago. There is no thought whatsoever of any succession in Venezuela right now because the Constitution and the will of the “pueblo” say so. Translation: Chavez plans to remain president until he is old and grey like his hero Fidel Castro.
Can Chavez achieve this goal? Fidel and Raul Castro and their thugs have been in power over 50 years. And the Castro regime is doing everything it can to prop up and consolidate the Chavez regime. Now that the Cubans have their teeth deep into Venezuela’s throat, they’re not going to walk away meekly from their oil-rich prize.
The will of the “pueblo” tends to be fickle in any country. But that’s why the Chavez regime has its armed militia – “Kill the Gringos” also applies to Venezuelans who oppose the will of Chavez.
The political opposition is another reason why we suspect that Chavez could do better than expected in September’s legislative elections. There are some notable exceptions, but the ‘opposition’ is mostly disappointing.
Accion Democratica, Primero Justicia and Unete, particularly, have been playing fast and dirty inside the Unitary Democratic Table (Spanish acronym, fittingly, is MUD). The biggest elbows in MUD belong to Henry Ramos Allup, Julio Borges and Manuel Rosales.
But with between 60 and 70 political parties and NGO’s elbowing each other in MUD for a crumb at the table of power, how many splinters does it take to make a logjam?