The pattern is clear. Words of reconciliation are followed by surprise attacks. What’s being offered looks like a peace pipe but is probably a stiletto
BY MICHAEL ROWAN
SPECIAL ARTICLE FOR EL UNIVERSAL
Caracas, Tuesday June 17 , 2008
Four times in over nine years President Chavez has appeared to reconcile with his enemies but each time he was preparing to attack.
In 1999, after a bitter and polarizing campaign where he demonized the opposition, Chavez delivered a grand inaugural speech about the horrors of poverty especially among the beggar children in the streets, and 90% of Venezuelans favored his presidency. But later he went on to issue 47 controversial edicts that dictated his control over public and private life and his popularity plummeted.
In April, 2002, arrested by his own military and returned to the presidency after two days of chaos, Chavez said he had made a mistake in not negotiating with the striking PDVSA workers, which had led to huge demonstrations, the shootings, and ultimately his arrest. But then he went on to fire 18,000 PDVSA workers and to deny many of them citizen services and civil rights.
In 2006, faced with opposition abstention in the national assembly election of the previous December, which made him look like a dictator de facto in a world where he was trying to look like the antidote to war, poverty and terrorism, he convinced the opposition to participate in what he promised would be a transparent, fair presidential election. But then he spent billions of dollars in political handout money, threatened government and military employees to vote red or lose their jobs, and commanded a 22-to-1 communications advantage over opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales.
And today, in 2008, with many in the world now convinced that his government is mixed up with the FARC, terrorism, money-laundering, illegal arms-dealing and secret uranium transfers to Iran, all to the frustration of Venezuela’s military traditions, he has rescinded the Getsapo edict, thrown the FARC to the wolves, and announced a new partnership with the private sector that has been disappearing because of his government’s nationalist-socialist economic policies.
The pattern is clear. Words of reconciliation are followed by surprise attacks. What’s being offered looks like a peace pipe but is probably a stiletto.