martes, 20 de noviembre de 2007


The Ambassador and friends from TransAfrica Forum (Archive).

Chavez Ambassador to the U.S. speaks in defense of Chavez proposed coup d’etat.

**Chavez’s Ambassador to Washington told his audience that Thomas Jefferson would have approved the need for a Venezuelan Constitutional reform.

Mr. Bernardo Alvarez, Chavez Ambassador in Washington, made a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International studies, CSIS, in Washington DC, in which he defended the “reform” proposed by Chavez to the Venezuelan Constitution and described the Venezuelan political regime as a democracy.
He started his presentation by saying that Thomas Jefferson would have approved of what is going on in Venezuela at this moment. Jefferson, he said, once suggested that the Constitution “ should be changed in every generation, this is, every 19 years”. He glossed over the fact that the U.S Constitution has never been replaced but only modified in a very cautious manner, while Venezuela has had 26 constitutions. He also failed to explain why the Venezuelan Constitution, labeled by Chavez as the best in the world in 1999, requires a major revamp only after nine years, half a generation later.
If I were a follower of Hugo Chavez I would have been very disappointed at Mr. Alvarez’s presentation. It was weak, rambling and left unanswered most of the concerns of the audience about the undemocratic nature of the proposed reform. Since I oppose Chavez the presentation by the Ambassador reinforced my impression that the Chavez bureaucracy is very inept. He further reinforced my belief when he said that the only reason he was sent to the U.S. as ambassador was “because he spoke some English” since his colleagues in government had not had “a chance to educate themselves abroad”.
Some of the remarks made by Mr. Alvarez were simply false.
1. He claimed that 78% of Venezuelans were well informed about the reform. Obviously he is not one of them because he went on to say that the reform would be voted in two blocks: one containing the proposals of the president and the other containing the proposals of the National Assembly. This is wrong. The so-called Block A contains 46 articles to be modified, a mixture of 33 president’s proposals and 13 National Assembly proposals. It was evident that the Ambassador had not been properly briefed. All polls by credible Venezuelan agencies: Datanalysis, Mercal and Hinterlaces, show that only 28% of Venezuelans said that they were informed about the reform.
2. He also claimed that the proposed reform had been duly debated in the assembly. Again, he was wrong. The proposals added by the National Assembly did not receive the required three discussions. Of course the discussions would have been a mere formality in an Assembly dominated completely by Chavez’s followers but the “ legislators” did not even keep the pretenses of doing things legally.
3. He claimed that the National Assembly had received 80,000 telephone calls in 47 days from Venezuelan citizens asking about the details of the reform and offering comments on the proposed reforms or even suggesting reforms of their own. This statement sounded like prepared by a U.S. contractor on behalf of the Embassy, since in the U.S. this is precisely what would be expected. In Venezuela this is not what the people do. What the Ambassador claimed, the existence of such a significant number of calls without giving the audience any proof or details of this “massive” operation, sounded more like one of the celebrated Jerry Lewis telethons in U.S. TV than a Venezuelan electoral consult. Assuming a 15-minute talk in the average (a minimum time to talk intelligently about such a complex matter) the Assembly should have received about 20,000 hours of calls during the 47 days. They would have needed about 20 telephone operators working around the clock, 24 by 7, but since Venezuelans would only call within working hours and the assembly is rarely working, we must assume that they received calls, at the most, for six hours a day (to be generous). That would have required about 80 telephone operators, all of them experts in the reform, explaining to people the details of the articles to be reformed, working seven days a week for 47 days. Knowing what the National Assembly looks like in the inside and how poorly they operate, and knowing how the Venezuelan people behave, I think this a lot of bull. My doubts are reinforced by the results of the polls mentioned above that state that the Venezuelan public remains largely ignorant of what the reform is all about.
The Ambassador made a vague, sugary, description of the reforms proposed.
He said the reform was required to “modernize” the constitution, so that it would fit the current situation in the country. He forgot to say that the proposed reform is illegitimate since it violates articles 2, 4 and 6 of the current constitution that determines that Venezuela shall always be democratic, that it will always allow plural political expressions and alternance in the presidency. The Chavez reform pretends to transform the country into a socialistic, authoritarian state, where only socialism can be promoted and where the president can be re-elected an unlimited amount of times (under the supervision/guidance of a corrupt Electoral Council).
Among others the following democratic features would be eliminated from the constitution (these are excerpts of a very detailed analysis which I have in my possession):
Administrative and political Decentralization
Intellectual property guarantees
Freedom to engage in economic pursuit
The guarantee of private property
The autonomy of the Central Bank
The independence of regional comptrollers
Regional control of ports and airports
The authority by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to judge top military brass
The non-political nature of the armed forces
The right to due process of the law, even in cases of national emergency

The following features, among many others, would be added to the reformed constitution:
The authority of the president to name regional vice-presidents
The authority of the president to create new cities, regional provinces and districts
State authority to promote mechanisms for the utilization of the free time of workers
State authority to occupy private property prior to any legal expropriation process
Presidential authority to use international monetary reserves and to regulate monetary policy
President authority to promote armed force officers
State authority to finance political parties
Armed forces to be popular and anti-imperialistic organizations
Popular participation will be allowed only if oriented to promote a socialist society
Leadership of the so-called Popular Power main will be named by the president
The president could be re-elected indefinitely and his period will be extended to seven years
Work hours would be shortened to six hours per day

Contrary to what the Ambassador claims, this is not a democratic reform; this is a coup d’ etat. What would a likely political scenario be under these conditions?
An unlimited presidential re-election under the supervision of a corrupt and regime-controlled electoral system, the elimination of political plurality, the promotion of a socialist, military-driven society, the elimination of administrative decentralization, the excessive power of the president, the elimination of the autonomy of the Central Bank, among other features, all add up to a change from liberal democracy to a socialist-fascist dictatorship. This is what the Chavez regime pretends to bring to a vote. A considerable amount of Venezuelans refuse to go to vote, even if it is against this pretension, because they feel that the proposal is essentially illegitimate, since it violates the laws of the country and the constitution and because they distrust National Electoral Council controlled by the regime. Another portion of Venezuelans feel that they should vote, even under these unfavorable conditions, because they think that this is their only option to defeat the reform. A significant portion of the population believe that they are facing a coup d’ etat and blame Chavez for leading Venezuelan society to possible civil war. They think that a new constitution that changes the nature of the Venezuelan state, from democratic to dictatorial, cannot legally be approved by a fragile majority, which is all Chavez, in the best of cases, would expect to get. They feel that if the Chavez “ victory” is too narrow or violates the electoral rules of the game there is a probability that a major social and political upheaval should take place in Venezuela, they would rebel.
Who will be in the rebel camp, when the time comes?
Surprisingly, not only Venezuelans who have always opposed Chavez would rebel, but also many who have previously followed him. PODEMOS, a party led by Ismael Garcia has abandoned the Chavez coalition. Former Minister of Defense Raul Baduel, the man who brought Chavez back to the presidency after he had been ousted by a popular rebellion in 2002, has gone on record to define the reform as a “ coup d’ etat”, calling the people and the armed forces to resist this attempt. Chavez’s former wife also went on record against the reform, for all this is worth. Several high profile governors such as Ramon Martinez and Didalco Bolivar have abandoned Chavez. The University students have formed a formidable anti-Chavez front and the university professors and professional organizations such as the Engineering, Medical and Legal Colleges back them. The Catholic Church is openly challenging Chavez’s authority. Political parties and dozens of civil society groups are lining up against Chavez. Some sectors of the armed forces are showing increasing signs of unrest.
While it is true that few of these organization and individuals have any firepower to speak of, it is also true that a strong anti-Chavez mood is emerging in Venezuela. This mood has been fueled by the blunders and the loutish behavior of Chavez in the international scene, including his pretensions of forming one single country with Cuba; his vulgar show at the Ibero American Presidential Summit in Santiago de Chile, where he was ordered to shut up by the King of Spain; his call for the politicization of OPEC, rebuked strongly by Saudi Arabia; his obscene money handouts to the Bolivian military and his pretensions of becoming president for life. The combination of domestic authoritarianism and foreign aggressiveness shown by Chavez is contributing to a major, global, mood that could contribute to cut his presidency short or could plunge Venezuela into a civil war of tragic consequences.
Some notable remarks made by the Chavez Ambassador during his talk.
Among the remarks made by the Chavez Ambassador I remember the following:
1. “There is effective separation of powers in Venezuela”. Such a statement calls for considerable impudence. It is obvious to the most casual observer that in Venezuela the separation of powers does not exist. The Legislative, Judicial, Electoral and “Moral” powers are all subordinated to Chavez in the most shameless manner. The persons holding these posts are Chavez ‘s mouthpieces and they don’t care who knows it. Last month the Venezuelan Ombudsman, the man who should protect the Venezuelan people from the abuses of power of the State, came to Washington to defend the reform, all expenses paid by the regime.
2. “You should go to visit the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. You would be amazed not only at the beautiful building but at how well they work”. If you go, you will find a group of magistrates who, with one or two exceptions, kowtow to the president in the most abject fashion. Only last year, dressed in full regalia, they got up in public to chant: “ Uh, ah. Chavez is never going”. One of them, Luis Velazquez Alvaray, is indicted of theft but has not been put in prison. He has claimed that many of his colleagues are drug traffickers and control judicial mafias, including one called the “dwarves”. Some time ago, one of them, Fernando Vegas, came to the U.S. on a speaking tour of several cities paid by the regime, to tell very meager U.S. audiences how wonderful Chavez was.
3. “ Latinobarometro, a respected polling agency from Chile, said that Venezuelans were most satisfied with democracy in our country”. This was some three years ago. The most recent poll of Latinobarometro reveals that Hugo Chavez is the most disliked political leader in Latin America (together with President Bush).
4. “ I am not going to debate with you. You can search for some private person to debate with. I can give you some names”. This was in answer to my challenge to debate him, publicly, on the Venezuelan general situation. I believe that an Ambassador, a public servant, should be responsive to the desires of Venezuelan citizens to exchange views with him or members of his staff on what is going on in the country. But he has refused to do so. Trying to debate with the regime is like pissing on cotton. Three times he or his staff has left me waiting: once at Harvard (he did not accept the invitation); once at American University (where they withdrew at the last minute) and once at the Voice of America (where they also withdrew). He realizes he does not have the arguments on his side and that he can get trounced. However, by refusing to debate he is proving right those who say that he represents a dictatorial regime.
Democracy is open debate and exchange of views. Refusing the debate is authoritarianism
I wish a Washington DC based think tank, university or organization could sponsor a panel in which an open debate on Venezuela could be had, with the participation of representatives of the Chavez regime and of Venezuelan citizens who oppose the regime. I would not agree to debate with a non-Venezuelan mercenary, one of those hired guns they have in the payroll. I know that this is what the regime would prefer to do but I think they, the regime's bureaucrats, should be the ones to respond to our challenge.

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