THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT - Chávez's authoritarian move was predictable

Por Venezuela Real - 14 de Agosto, 2008, 17:02, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

Miami Herald
August 14, 2008

After more than 10 years of watching Venezuela's authoritarian President Hugo Chávez, it's hard not to notice how predictable he has become: He always moves one step backward after a political setback, then two steps forward the minute the world looks away.

These days, there is little question where he's at. After losing a Dec. 2 referendum that would have allowed him to stay in office indefinitely, he spent six months playing Mr. Nice Guy, only to start violating the most basic democratic rules in recent weeks. Chávez's wants to assure his victory in key Nov. 23 elections for state governors and mayors.

I was thinking of this one-step-two-steps political routine while interviewing Leopoldo López, one of Venezuela's most prominent banned politicians, who was officially stripped of his right to run for Caracas mayor earlier this week.

López, the 37-year-old mayor of the Caracas' municipality of Chacao, was riding high in the polls. On Monday, Venezuela's Chávez-dominated Supreme Court ruled him unfit to run for office, alongside about 270 other candidates, nearly 90 percent of whom belong to the opposition.


The banned politicians and most legal experts say that the government's decision is unconstitutional because under Chávez's own 1999 Constitution only candidates with firm sentences against them from a court of law can be banned from running for office. In López's case and that of many other oppositionists, they were charged by the Chávez-backed Comptroller General or other government officials, but never had their day in court or received firm sentences.

In another move circumventing all rules of fair play, Chávez signed several decrees on July 31 -- the last day he held ''special powers'' given to him by the Chávez-majority National Assembly -- to sign 26 decrees and enact some of the ''Bolivarian revolutionary'' measures that were rejected by the Venezuelan people in last year's national referendum.

López confirmed to me that Chávez, after keeping a relatively low profile following a series of political setbacks -- including the Dec. 2 referendum, the King of Spain's public demand during a summit that he ''shut up'' and the disclosure of FARC rebel computer files that show Chávez's active support for Colombia's largest guerrilla army -- the Venezuelan president is on the offensive.

''After his Dec. 2 defeat, he will do anything to avoid a second defeat,'' López said. ``The blacklisting we are seeing now has never been seen in Venezuela before. Even in 1998, when Chávez was a presidential candidate and his opponents wanted to ban him from running for office for having staged a military coup attempt that violated the Constitution and left more than 100 dead, the Supreme Court decided that he could not be banned because there was no firm sentence against him.''

López said that Chávez's strategy of effectively picking opposition candidates by banning the most popular anti-Chávez politicians is in line with what some of the Venezuelan president's key allies -- the presidents of Iran, Belarus and Zimbabwe -- are doing in their own countries. The leaders of the three countries were given Venezuela's highest honors by Chávez, López added.

''I had a 60 percent approval rate in Caracas,'' López said. ``I was beating both Chávez and his candidates in the city's poorest neighborhoods.''


Asked what he will do now, López said he will support efforts to build a single opposition bloc that will back candidates for the November elections and that he will campaign for whoever that bloc decides to nominate for the Caracas mayoralty.

''I think we can win,'' he said. ``The government has realized that it no longer has the capacity to win elections and thus has resorted to blacklisting its best opposition candidates in order to win.''

My opinion: In times like these, when Chávez is In his authoritarian mode, I can't help but remembering the political manifesto he wrote while in the Yaré prison after his 1992 coup attempt. In his On how to escape this labyrinth manifesto, Chávez wrote that it would take 20 years in power for his ''civilian-military'' government to bring about a ''revolution'' in Venezuela.

In the mind of Venezuela's narcissist-Leninist leader, we're still in that incubation period, and that's what his one step backward-two steps forward political game is all about.

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