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Venezuela: amnesty to the chavista establishment to avoid civil war

By Aleksander Boyd

London 10.09.05 | The levels of division, desperation and anger in Venezuela's society are reaching epic proportions. Hugo Chavez has sown so much hatred in the country that he may harvest the devastating crop sooner than expected. Nothing or no one can guarantee that the herotofore contained feelings will not explode in the near future causing a bloodbath and throwing the country into armed conflict, thus terminating with the longest period of peace that any country, in the world, has enjoyed in the last century. Speaking to friends and relatives in Venezuela and pondering about the possible solution to the social crisis that's brewing I have reached the conclusion that only an offer of amnesty, to the chavista establishment, will spare the country an increasingly probable civil war.

The new Status Quo

Cisneros, Mendozas, Vollmers, Zuloagas, Cohens, Zings, Blohms... they no longer are "Los Midas del Valle", their influence waning and clientelistic network of yesmen irremediably damaged. What's more they are at the complete mercy of Chavez, who sincerely wishes for all of them to get scared and abandon the country once and for all. As an aggravating plus the bulk of their monies is not in Venezuela but abroad, not invested in other industries or businesses but in hard cold cash for the most part. The purpose of such a position is to hedge against Chavez-like figures, however in the good old days it would have been unthinkable for an administration to expropriate, let alone confiscate, private enterprises. Ergo what's the reason of such an irresponsible and cowardly position? For capital flight is not a phenomena attributable to Chavez's policies, it has been a widespread practice among the well to do for a very long time.

The new ruling, and extremely powerful, elite is composed by Rupertis, Cabellos, Rangels, Chavez, Cameros, Herreras, Manuits, Chacons, Rodriguez... these are the people who actually control Venezuela at will. They have become an all dominant cast and effectively are untouchable; they are above the law and as such they behave, inebriated of absolute power. There's no communist or socialist ideology binding them, rather the sheer desire to enrich themselves; the quicker the better.

From an opposition standpoint it would be foolish to think that power can be regained via democratic elections. That's an utopia. However one can see the struggle amongst them, the infight between the civil and the military subcasts; the deep distrust that Chavez has of the army; the quarreling amongst small time political operators vying for a piece of the pie, desperate to sort of cleanse their deprived personas in the seemingly never ending stream of petrocash. It's like watching a frenzied ruling class "chasing the dragon" for once they have realised that it is possible to ransack the country's riches without fear of legal prosecution, life becomes, effectively, a rat race. But how can the opposition revert that trend and stop them?

The difficult path ahead

In December this year new assemblymen/women will be elected. We all know that Chavez's candidates will win by a CNE propelled landslide. Gossip has it that Chavez wants, at least, 45 totally subservient military companions to win seats in Congress. Then ammendments to the Constitution will pass as democratic and legal representation of people's will, a mirror image of the Weymar Republic, and Castro's heir will be able to shout to the world that his 'revolution' has indeed the support of the people. Realistically speaking the opposition has only one shot at retaking control, read the presidential race in 2006. This unique opportunity shall be the defining moment of the country's future; either to continue being an albeit imperfect and semi-dysfunctional democracy or a full fledged thugocracy. For it will not be at the polls that the chance of steering the country back to its correct path will be defined, but by the decisive action and non-violent struggle of the electorate nationwide a la Ukraine that Castro-chavismo can be defeated. Opposition parties ought to start immediately either with the development of this plan or else make inroads with the new establishment in order to save their skin and ensure whatever meagre left over the former wants to throw at them, which some are already doing.

It will not be a rosy path though, taking into consideration the formidable and abundant internal and external enemies that such a movement shall encounter. Take for once Castro's desire to turn Venezuela into his new operation's base. Just imagine the sort of resistance that democratic elements will be faced with while pitted against the world's leading authority in crushing dissent. It should be doubtless that Castro, and his well oiled and efficient repressive apparatus, want to take absolute control of Venezuela and more importantly of its oil industry.

Then there is the Colombian narcoguerrillas and drug cartels; the losing of a close to 1 million square kilometers launching pad for their international trade, resting camps and source of weapons is not a fancying prospect.

A pragmatic approach

Venezuelans of whatever political or ideological tendency do not want to live in a communist system. Circumstantial evidence shows that when the opportunity presents itself, either legal or otherwise, no Venezuelan prefers poverty over wealth. If one adds to this the utter inefficiency of chavismo, it can be concluded that the neo-communist project of Hugo Chavez is doomed to fail, for for such a project to succeed a strong ideological component and a steadfast discipline are needed, which, in the case of Venezuela, are simply non existent. Ergo such weakness ought to be exploited by the opposition by campaining strongly against the imposition of Castro-communism.

The emergence of regional "caudillos" is another aspect worth analysing. Ramon Machuca in the Guayana region, Luis Felipe Acosta Carles in Valencia, Eduardo Manuitt in Guarico, Didalco Bolivar in Aragua, Raul Baduel -although in the army- in Maracy are just a few names of an augmenting group of chavistas that have shown their teeth to their master. The lot are unwilling to just obey blindly the orders emanated from Caracas and certainly are not prepared to share power and spoils with Cubans without putting up a half decent fight. Same applies to the urban militia groups in Caracas such as the Tupamaros, Carapaicas and Lina Ron's goon squads. Then again the opposition has a window of opportunity to re-enact Jose Vicente Rangel's ever so successfull policy of dividi et vinci.

The unsustainability of the social missions is already affecting the lives of millions of poor, that sooner or later will start questioning Chavez's irresponsible spending spree in other countries. Factor in the decreasing output of PDVSA and the increasing dependance on associations with warier foreign firms whose property is not respected, in sum a recipe for disaster, although I bet that GAZPROM will have no problems operating there, for obvious reasons...

The new order's greatest fear is to lose the ill acquired riches. They couldn't care less about Chavez's revolution or his continental plans, all they want is real state in oligarchic enclaves such as Altamira, La Lagunita, Weston or Key Byscaine, a fat bank account and the possibility to send their kids to study abroad. The USA has a leading role to play here. Should its commitment to democracy be sincere, without incurring into any violations to Venezuelan sovereignty or taking the dead end road of publicly scolding Chavez, the Bush administration can very easily, and cheaply one must add, kickstart a chain of events that can have a tremendous impact in the internal dynamics of Venezuelan politics and the stability of the region; read freeze bank accounts, confiscate assets and revoke visas to high profile chavistas. That alone will create extraordinary aggravation to those in Chavez's inner circle who, having to chose between loyalty to Castro's heir or a life of plenty anywhere, will for sure rebel against their boss.

When talking about misappropriation of funds in Venezuela many of us probably recall the only Venezuelan that has ever being imprisoned due to corruption charges, the poor "Chino de Recadi" that is. He was the doorman of the building were the infamous RECADI -corruption centre of foreign exchange- functioned back in the days. So from a pragmatic viewpoint it would be unfair to jail chavistas for having done the same that previous politicos did, none of which, needs be stressed, did time owing to corruption and other rackets. Thus one of the opposition's key bargaining points ought to be an offer of amnesty to the chavista conservative wing, that is to say to those who prefer to keep the money over keeping Chavez in power. The amnesty offer ought to be accompanied by one condition which is political interdiction. Chavista fortunes of dodgy origin may be kept solely upon the meeting of the aforementioned rule, breach to that would mean jail time and confiscation of assets. Those who wish to go one step further and accuse their superiors of wrongdoings in order to gain immunity should be protected by future administrations.

This method has worked in South Africa, the USA, Colombia why wouldn't in Venezuela? Is certainly worth a try and should it succeed it can avoid a civil war and prevent unnecessary loss of life.

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