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Chavismo in Venezuela: a house of cards about to crumble

By Aleksander Boyd

London 29.05.05 | Much noise about Hugo Chavez is being made of late by the usual dictator-cuddlers. Both, them and specially Chavez, have got a bit of a problem though. See Hugo Chavez spent many years of his life being a coup cheerleader, in fact he planned, organized and led a bloody attempt to unseat a democratically elected president only to seek hide when the goal was within reach. Thus the cornerstone of his propagandistic campaign, that prostituted argument of the "oligarchic and fascist opposition" desperately bent on ousting him, 'a democratically elected president' by fair or fouls means rings hollow. Secondly Chavez has abused the concept of "empowering the people" far too much, the consequence being that some of his supporters have actually come to the conviction that now they do have power to participate and decide in social, political and financial matters related to them in whichever scale. The problem seems to be that they are constantly reminded, by the official apparatus, that their participation goes as far as the great leader sees fit. Recent development have shown that Chavez and chavismo, as his movement has come to be known, are far from being a consolidated force. Oxford Analytica's report "VENEZUELA: Conflicts could cause coalition collapse" concludes "However, it is proving difficult to achieve his end of transforming Chavismo from a movement built on the appeal of a charismatic populist into a coherent political party. As competing groups struggle for influence, political instability has increased, and there is a real possibility that the ruling alliance may collapse under the weight of its own contradictions". The agglutinating factor of that caboodle is Hugo Chavez; take him out and the whole set-up will crumble like a house of cards.

There is no lost love between chavistas. They see in the president a messianic figure that gives and gives and some more. The nature of the gives are varied but in most cases what is expected is a market of subsidized food and 'misiones' where one can go sign in order to cash in. Attendance to official demonstrations and parades are also great sources of easy cash. Move up from the core constituency to local and regional leaders. The odds of making a quick buck with the government have never been so good in Venezuela, thus the 'empowered' are extremely busy doing all sorts of dodgy business to get rich while the "piñata" lasts. It would be foolish to think that the empowered rabble are ideological soul mates of Chavez, their only allegiance is to themselves, their fine instinct of self-preservation dictates every action. In the third, of this four-level house of cards, one finds the officialdom; i.e. civil servants. This is the harshest of environments; intrigues, assassinations, accusations, jealousy, mind you it is like crabs in a bucket trying to get out. They hate each other but the love for the goodies to be had keeps them in calmed coexistence. Chavez, and his Cuban parasite, are the only residents in the fourth level. Nothing gets done in this house without their approval and we shall see some examples of that.

Lukoil president gets stood up by Chavez

The problem is not that Vagit Alekperov could not meet with Chavez, after weeks of preparations, or that Lukoil's participation in the Rafael Urdaneta project may be affected due to such heedless presidential behaviour, but rather that the Russian oilman did spend some hours with Venezuela's oil Minister and PDVSA's CEO Rafael Ramirez, who could not conduct the business of dealing in productive fashion with Alekperov. Evident then that the sole person capable of forging oil deals in Venezuela is Chavez and not the country's oil Minister.

Rafael Ramirez questioned by the National Assembly

During the week Minister Ramirez finally appeared before the National Assembly to be questioned in regards to the billions of dollars missing from PDVSA's coffers. In customary revolutionary manner he turned the issue into an attack to the old management of PDVSA and international oil conglomerates operating in Venezuela. The PDVSA partners in the Sincor Project, Norway's Statoil and France's Total, got hammered and suggestions that they owed many millions in unpaid taxes and accusations of having illegally exceeded the agreed output quota backfired. Stig Hess managed to get in touch with a spokesperson of Statoil and here is the reply:

"Sincor is paying 34%, which is normal for the heavy crude-projects. But that was not what Ramirez was talking about in the National Assembly. His message was that Sincor has been producing almost double of what was permitted and in a much larger area. Our reply to that is that we do comply with all legislation in any countries where we are involved. This also applies to Venezuela. We have complied 100% with written agreements".

Kai Nielsen
Manager Public Affairs, Statoil
Office tel.: +47 51 99 18 27
Mobile tel.: + 47 97 04 13 32
e-mail: dkani@statoil.com

Total was equally surprised with respect to Ramirez's prevarications. Again one has to ponder about the purpose of such false claims. Is the constant unilateral change of contractual agreements the way in which PDVSA seeks to gain confidence as a reliable partner in long term oil projects? One of the most disturbing element of Ramirez's behaviour in the National Assembly was the conditions he sought to imposed upon his appearance, evidencing that chavista ministers truly think that they are above the law and people's representatives in Congress. Booing and hard questioning was not to be tolerated by the minister. Equally shocking the presence of many members of PDVSA board in the appearance.

Sovereignty?

That's another of the favourite mantras of Hugo Chavez, the defence of Venezuela's sovereignty. However for the first time in Venezuela's contemporary history the conduction of the State is subject to the mandates of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and our energy policies and company are in the hands of utterly inept staff commanded by a German Marxist and allegedly former terrorist Bernard Mommer (sitting to the right of Ramirez during the latter's appearance before legislators). This nefarious man, together with his Mexican apprentice Juan Carlos Boué, have been given the golden opportunity to dismantle PDVSA's international network of assets. To their credit production of Orimulsion is a thing of the past -which has caused legal suits against PDVSA- and they have Chavez convinced that CITGO needs to be sold for it's bad business.

Terrorism or links to terrorism cause of revocation of US visa to Venezuela's Supreme Court President Omar Mora

From Bloomberg and thanks to Seth Antiles I learned the following:

May 27 (Bloomberg) By Peter Wilson | The U.S. revoked the tourist visit of Venezuela's Supreme Court President Omar Mora under a terrorism statute, heightening tension between the countries a week after President Hugo Chavez threatened to cut off diplomatic ties. "His visa was revoked under Section 212-A, 3-B," U.S. Embassy spokesman Brian Penn said in a telephone interview today. Penn declined additional comment. That section of the Patriot Act covers visa regulations regarding persons suspected of terrorism or links to terrorist groups, according to the statute posted on the U.S. State Department's Web site.

I shall add no further comments safe that Omar Mora's son purportedly fled from Venezuelan justice and currently lives in Germany with the full support and protection of his revolutionary father...

The end of chavismo

Many critics maintain that Chavez and chavismo have a good chance to cover the distance and I beg to differ. For there's no such thing as chavismo without Chavez and there's no Chavez without PDVSA. As the oil company sinks deeper and the stream of funds get smaller Chavez wants to squeeze international conglomerates, central bank reserves, sale strategic assets, etc., however no matter how much money he gets his hands on it will never soothe the galloping greed of 'chavistas' whose loyalty costs many greenbacks. Chavez's image could not be in worse shape before the international community, even his pal Lula is fed up with him. His attempt to block Sumate's appearance in Fort Lauderdale's OAS Summit backfired badly and left many in the hemisphere doubting his democratic credentials and the utility of aligning themselves with such regime. No one trusts Chavez anymore. As his room for manoeuver shrinks so does the life expectancy of his movement.



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