November 10, 2006
An Urgent Memo to the OAS
How do you fail to see one elephant walking downtown? When there are dozens of elephants walking with him. When do you fail to see a coup? When many are openly conducting it.
A coup d'état is in progress in Venezuela at this very moment. Hugo Chávez leads it in his double role as president and presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. This open rebellion against the constitution and the laws of the republic started several days ago, when Rafael Ramírez, the Oil Minister cum president of the State oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), addressed employees of the company to tell them that whoever was not with Chávez had to leave the company immediately. Ramírez threatened to fire anyone who dissented, in the same way that Chávez sacked 19,500 PDVSA employees in 2002 for being "enemies of the revolution." Ramírez said that PDVSA was "red" from top to bottom, red being the color chosen by the so-called "Bolivarian Revolution" of Hugo Chávez. This speech was recorded in its entirety and its authenticity is not in dispute. On the contrary, next day the Venezuelan strongman publicly congratulated Ramírez and asked him to "repeat the speech one hundred times a day." In the same opportunity he said that the Venezuelan armed forces were equally "red" and at the service of the revolution. This also constituted an open violation of the Venezuelan constitution in its article 328 and to the laws of the republic. How would the international opinion react if Bush or Fox, just to mention two presidents of democratic countries publicly stated that the armies of their countries were at the service of their political parties or groups? Why would this create a global commotion but there is no reaction when it takes place in Venezuela?
The most probable explanation is that the reaction should start at the local institutions which represent the citizens of the country, those institutions in charge of the checks and balances that are indispensable to democracy. Unfortunately the Venezuelan strongman has captured these institutions and their leadership behave as Chávez's errand boys. This is the case of the National Assembly, of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the Ombudsman, the General Comptroller and the Attorney General. This is also the case with the Defense Minister who has kept essentially quiet after Chávez's statement of open rebellion. In fact, what he has said so far (La Verdad, Maracaibo, November 8, 2006) is that he would not comment on Chávez's statement. Taking this silence as tacit approval, Admiral Luis Cabrera has just told the State TV channel that "we are in a revolution and that the revolution is the constitution," an outburst that cannot be interpreted as in any other manner than as an open rebellion against the laws of the country.
This is taking place in our country as the popular mood seems to be changing clearly against Chávez and as election day gets closer. The open rebellion of Hugo Chávez against the constitution and the laws of our country has the objective of getting his followers ready to deny an electoral victory to the opposition. The reasons are twofold: one, the desire by Chávez to stay in power indefinitely and, two, his realization that if he loses and yields power, he and his accomplices will be criminally indicted for the ruin they have brought upon the country, for the loss of national sovereignty he has allowed and for the multiple violations he has committed against the human rights of Venezuelans.
The secretary General of the Organization of American States, on a recent visit to Caracas, stated, "only Venezuelans can solve their problems." But, how can we solve the Venezuelan tragedy when the strongman is closing all democratic paths? What is developing in Venezuela, in view of Chávez's attitude, is probably a violent confrontation between a dictatorial regime with a well-armed paramilitary force and a very frustrated and unarmed civilian population. Although I realize that the OAS is a very bureaucratic organization and slow to move, I urge the Secretary General to use his diplomatic clout to try to prevent a tragic outcome of the coming Venezuelan electoral process.
The evidence is there for all to hear and see.