Venezuela in Political Chaos

In 1993, the Venezuelan Attorney General established that President Carlos Andres Perez had used $250,000 of government funds to modernize the security systems of Nicaraguan President Violeta Chamorro. This led to the impeachment of President Perez and to his departure from the presidency. Democracy worked. Fifteen years later the Venezuelan political process is far from being as democratic.

President Hugo Chavez has enjoyed record amounts of oil revenues and has disposed of them without accountability. The Attorney General and all other officers in charge of checks and balances are eager to follow his orders. At least $30 billion have been improperly used by Chavez to gain political influence in Latin America: helicopters and cash given to Evo Morales in Bolivia; $5 billion to bail out Kirchner in Argentina; cash to Ortega in Nicaragua; the financing of the presidential campaigns of his friends in Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

This outflow of Venezuelan money has been done without the smallest impediment from Venezuelan political institutions. Meanwhile the economic and social indices of Venezuela, such as inflation and crime rates, are the worst in the hemisphere.

This dismal domestic performance is, however, only half of the story. The other half is his attempt at destroying what he calls “the empire”: the United States. He has applied all the financial and human resources of his government to the creation of a global anti-American alliance. He has joined the club of rogue states:  Iran, Belarus, Syria, Bolivia, Zimbabwe and Cuba and has been rapidly falling under the political influence of Vladimir Putin.

Within the last three years U.S. and other western private electricity, oil, telecommunications, TV, steel and cement companies have been taken over, even confiscated, by the state and replaced by companies from China, Russia and Iran.  Chavez has gone on a shopping spree of weapons, buying up to $7 billion in Russian, Chinese, Iranian and Belarusian helicopters, missiles, jet fighters, tanks and machine guns. A $3 billion order for three diesel powered, 636-type Russian submarines, has recently been placed. The Chavez regime has become one of the most vocal and active enemies of the United States in the world. Within OPEC Chavez insistently calls for less production and higher prices.

However, things are not turning out as Chavez would have wished. Domestically he faces increasing opposition, even from within his own ranks, due to his very erratic performance. In December of 2007 his attempt at becoming president for life was defeated in the polls. His dream of installing in Venezuela a replica of the Castro system has been shattered by the determined resistance of Venezuelan citizens who, contrary to Cubans, have largely been born in democracy. The regional elections that will take place in late November of this year could represent a major political defeat for Chavez.

The major threats to the Chavez’s rule are coming from outside: one, the findings in the computers of FARC’s deceased leader Raul Reyes, linking Chavez and his government with this Colombian narcoterrorist organization. This link is now well documented and the U.S government has started to take action.

Only days ago it designated three major figures of the Chavez government as accomplices of the FARC, freezing their holdings, if any, in the U.S. The three officers include the former Minister of the Interior Ramon Rodriguez Chacin (who resigned hours before the U.S announcement), the Head of Venezuelan Military Intelligence, General Hugo Carvajal and the Head of the Venezuelan Intelligence and Prevention Services (the equivalent of the FBI) Henry Rangel Silva. In addition it is expected that the U.S. government will designate more Venezuelan officers, including Generals Clive Alcala and Amilcar Figueroa, as also having intimate ties with the FARC. This process shows some similarities to the one that led to the U.S. imprisonment of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

A second major threat to Chavez’s presidency comes from his links with Nestor Kirchner and his wife, Cristina Fernandez, the current president of Argentina. A trial now in progress in Miami has revealed how a bag with $800,000 found in possession of a Venezuelan businessman at the Buenos Aires airport was money sent by Chavez to Cristina Fernandez, to finance her presidential campaign (or for her personal use). Apparently there had been 14 previous, successful, trips of this nature to Buenos Aires. The current Venezuelan Minister of the Interior, Tarek El Aisami, has been identified in the trial as the Venezuelan high-level officer who handled the operation while the money was apparently provided by Rafael Ramirez, the president of PDVSA, the Venezuelan petroleum company.

The third main threat is the failing oil prices in the world markets, a drop of almost 30% in the last two months.

These three processes, impossible to control by Chavez, are placing his government in a very fragile position. He is extremely concerned and resorting to his Plan B, trying to create a military crisis in the Caribbean to divert attention from the imminent dangers mentioned above. To this effect he has promoted the presence in Venezuela of two Russian strategic bombers and joint naval maneuvers of the Venezuelan and Russian navies in the Caribbean. This serves Putin’s strategic purposes well, since it constitutes a Russian answer to the U.S presence in the Caucasus.

Chavez has also expelled the U.S. Ambassador in Caracas, “in solidarity” with an equal measure taken by his ally Evo Morales in Bolivia. Now that his plans for hemispheric hegemony are collapsing, Chavez is trying to provoke the U.S. into military action, so that he could become a “victim” of the empire. For the first time in several years the United States is taking the strategic initiative against Chavez, placing him under strong political pressure.

The political and social chaos now prevailing in Venezuela is bound to increase in the immediate future. This suggests that Chavez might not finish his normal presidential term that ends in 2012.