December 23, 2002
NO SIGN OF 'RECONCILIATION' AND FEARING 'THE WORST'
** Venezuelan media insist on sustained citizen
pressure to force Pres. Chavez to step down, praising the streets for
"defending democracy" and denying charges of
** Writers across the spectrum claim to support
a peaceful solution with some looking to the Armed Forces to
"contain" a president who, they warned, may resort to an "auto
** Outside observers, alarmed by the
"deteriorating" situation and the impact on oil exports, agree that a
coup would be unacceptable and censured the "extremism" of both
Pessimists see 'war of attrition,' Chavez
'desperate' to stage 'auto coup' a la Fujimori-- In addition to intoning
a now-standard anti-Chavez mantra, Venezuelan columnists warned of the danger
of an "auto coup" by which Chavez would replace the current
government with a dictatorship. While
sparing no invective for Chavez, writers extolled the virtues of the
Critics insisted that Chavez, "a megalomaniac lost in the delirium
of power," did not understand the meaning of democracy. An op-ed in liberal national daily-of-record El
Nacional charged that Chavez had tried to convert the republic into a
"medieval state subject to his whim."
Seeing no end to the crisis in sight, some papers appealed to the Armed
Forces. Insisting that the government
was determined to "impose its will" on a "majority that aspires
to a peaceful and democratic solution," conservative popular,
anti-government 2001, averred that "in such critical times, the
Armed Forces' presence--but not...a coup d'etat--is as necessary as that of the
rest of Venezuelans."
Elections best way for Chavez to recoup
legitimacy-- Most outside observers,
while acknowledging Chavez's faults, concluded that a coup would be the
"worst way" to change the government.
Many feared that time was running out for a peaceful solution and
suggested that Chavez would be smart to accede to early elections--thus, in the
words of an Argentine editor, "placing the ball in the court of a divided
opposition." Underscoring the
dilemma, Toronto's leading Globe and Mail held, "Distasteful as
Chavez may be, he was elected by popular vote and should not be deposed by a
Some advocate need for less 'extremism'-- Although many, particularly conservative
voices, blamed Chavez for "radicalizing" the situation, a growing
number of liberal outlets faulted the "putsch-friendly elite" for
fomenting extremism and the Venezuelan media for "contaminating"
information and contributing to the "conspiracy." While chastising Chavez for "exposing
the country to unprecedented economic deterioration and violence,"
Colombia's leading El Tiempo nevertheless called upon the opposition
"to revise its irrational stance."
Caracas' mass-appeal, government sympathic Ultimas Noticias
lamented that elections, whatever the outcome, "will do us little good if
this tense climate of pugnacity, conflict and bitterness is not
This analysis is based on 59 reports from18 countries, Dec. 15-23. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed by the most recent date.
"The Cleansing Operation"
Liberal national daily of record El Nacional
commented (12/23): "Chavez's obsession has contaminated other people in
his government, including certain eleventh-hour revolutionaries who are trying
to play catch-up with extremist positions, such as that minister [Planning
Minister Felipe Perez] who announced on state television [12/21] that after the
'cleansing' of PDVSA will come the 'cleansing' of the media.... This 'Operation Cleansing' is the grand
design of the Chavez revolution. In
clear terms, it has one name the
annihilation of the other, the establishment of totalitarianism as the
end. It would be worth it to know how
they are going to carry out this 'cleansing' of the media.... The hour of truth
is coming.... The arbitrary use of force only angers the population,
stimulating and feeding the civil resistance.
No one in the government is capable of understanding this, and thus they
bang their heads against a wall. It is a
government dominated by the obsession to destroy."
"An Exceptional State Of Exception"
Historian Jorge Olavarria argued in an op-ed in
liberal national daily of record El Nacional (12/23): "The Supreme
Court's Constitutional Court knows it has issued an impossible order [calling
for an end to the oil strike].... Through this ruling, the court has declared
an exceptional state of exception.... The court has decreed a state of
exception in giving the Executive unlimited powers to take whatever measures
the situation requires, without the limitations on states of exception
established in the Constitution. This
means that the measures the State could take will be 'legally'
"Let Santa Bring Us Some Sense"
In an op-ed in conservative national
daily-of-record El Universal former presidential candidate and 1992 coup
participant Francisco Arias Cardenas reflected (12/23): "The extremists
have things in their hands, and this makes the events of the coming days very
dangerous.... The extremes of both sides are doing so much damage to the
country.... I hope Santa brings us some sense."
Conservative, anti-government popular 2001
editorialized (12/23): "The coming days are crucial for Venezuela. On one side is a rebelling majority, peaceful
and civil, without arms, demanding a political solution; and on the other, a
regime lost in its labyrinth, given to violence, determined to impose its will
on a great majority that aspires to a peaceful and democratic solution for all
Venezuelans.... In such critical times,
the Armed Forces' presence - but not in the shape of a coup d'etat - is as
necessary as that of the rest of Venezuelans, since we are all citizens of the
same nation, and all of us have a part to play.... The spirit of civil society will not be
broken, and is still awaiting a response from the government."
"Venezuela On The World Agenda"
Mass-circulation, government-sympathetic Ultimas
Noticias ran a column by editor Eleazer Diaz Rangel entitled (12/22):
"You have seen the many statements from the UN, OAS, European Union, etc,
all expressing their concern, condemning any coup attempt and calling for
peaceful solutions; others go farther and demand that the solution be peaceful,
democratic, constitutional and electoral.
Less coverage has been given to other statements favoring the
government, including those by European parliamentarians, Colombian, Argentine
and Ecuadorian labor unions, the French Green Party, U.S. intellectuals and
artists, Uruguayan intellectuals, etc.... Elections, no matter whether Chavez
or the opposition candidate wins, will do us little good if this tense climate
of pugnacity, conflict and bitterness is not alleviated.... The media have
accepted Gaviria's request to help contribute a climate of calm... But this is
insufficient. Without the effort of
everyone, beginning with the TV, it won't be possible to create this climate
of, if not harmony, then peaceful civic relations..."
"Let Them Regain Their Dignity"
Mass-circulation, government-sympathetic Ultimas
Noticias ran op-ed by columnist
Miguel Thodde (12/20): "It seems, fortunately, that the Supreme Court and
the National Electoral Council have finally awoken. If we have to ask Santa for something,
please, it is that those who have lost their dignity react and awake and regain
"The Negotiations And Christmas"
An op-ed by William Ojeda in mass-circulation,
government-sympathetic Ultimas Noticias held (12/20):"The
[Gaviria-sponsored] negotiations are an indication of the terrible parliament
we have. If we had a politically
effective legislature we wouldn't have to seek outside help to establish a
space for political discussion. The
natural stage for public debate is the National Assembly, but this has given
signals of atrocious inefficiency.... Venezuelans deserve respect, so we demand
concrete, tangible, and serious results from the negotiators."
"To Urge A Decision For Peace"
Conservative, popular, anti-government 2001
editorialized (12/20): "The Venezuelan crisis deepens every day and there
is no solution in sight, since while an active, majority opposition is in the
streets expressing its discontent with President Chavez's government, the
government turns deaf and blind and shows no need to reach a solution. Time
passes and the national civic strike, far from weakening, grows stronger,
making desperate Chavez and his group.
But there is not one sign of approaching the adversary, perhaps because
he is not interested in doing so because this would clash with his so-called
'revolution's' objectives.... Venezuelans, President Chavez, are a family that
wants union and peace.... We are happy, not resentful, and we did not know
hatred until you were elected. Correct
your behavior...and for the good of the country and its future, allow there to
be an urgent solution."
Centrist Caracas El Globo published a
brief editorial comment (12/20) that read in full: "Time is running out
for a political deal. The doors to
anarchy are beginning to open."
"To Aggravate The Conflict"
Liberal national daily-of-record El Nacional
asserted in an editorial (12/20): "The idea of democracy is far from the
president's mind. He doesn't understand
it. He conceives only of a regime where
generals disobey judicial rulings, board ships, take over private property, and
try to militarily resolve social conflicts.... The country is paralyzed. After three weeks of civic strike,
militarization has shown that it is not the answer. Nor is confrontation as the only alternative. The government is undertaking a test of
strength, recurring to measures incompatible with the legal order.... To think
that one can put an end to this via an "order" might just be another
conflictive element to those already listed.
Threats are not the way.... Venezuela will awake to this year's
Christmas condemned to uncertainty and chance."
"Defeat The Extremism Of Both Sides"
Afternoon Tal Cual ran an editorial with
the assertion (12/19): "The Supreme
Court ruling returning control of the Metropolitan Police to the Greater
Caracas mayor... and Attorney General Rodriguez's reproval of Chavez's call to
ignore court rulings...are significant, because they reveal that, contrary to
what the prophets of extremism say, in the country there is appreciable room to
face and defeat the illegalities committed by the government within
institutions, the law and the constitution. In the street, the opposition has
waged some of its best battles. It has
won when its impressive mass and overwhelming marches and concentrations have
united a correct determination to avoid violence, including in cases like this
week's march toward the National Pantheon, where its overwhelming majority
would have crushed without problems the tiny pro-government group gathered
around Bolivar's tomb. On the other hand, the opposition actions by small groups
that violate the rights of the population, such as in the mean street
blockades, have a counterproductive result.... For us to find a negotiated
solution, it's important to defeat the extremism of both sides."
"Between Civilization And
Liberal national daily-of-record El Nacional
carried an op-ed by Hector Faundez stating (12/19): "Just when we thought this government
couldn't surprise us any more, during his Sunday program, President Chavez
ordered Armed Forces officers to ignore public prosecutors and investigators
and not obey decisions of courts that could interfere with the execution of
some presidential decree.... As of Sunday, Venezuela is no longer a republic of
citizens, because, with his attitude, Hugo Chavez has tried to convert it into
a medieval state subject to his whim above the law, and where the courts can
decide anything, as long as it doesn't contradict the will of the ruler....
When this nightmare is over, the democratic opposition will have the obligation
to show how it is different from the current government. We will have to respect the rights of the
minority, protect their exercise of those rights, and show that tolerance that
the current rulers lack. We will have to
replace an authoritarian project with a democratic one that excludes no
one. That is how we will differentiate
ourselves.... Venezuela cannot stand another fraud or another failure. What
Chavez has said is a new violation of the Democracy Charter. But he crossed that line long ago.... He has no democratic spirit, he does not care
about institutions, and he is not willing to follow the constitution."
Popular, anti-government 2001 ran an
editorial (12/19): "Civil society
has not gone into the streets whimsically.
There is very little that works in this country, and added to that are
the pretentions of an authoritarian government that acts outside the
constitution and wants to become a dictatorship. The government is insensitive to the demand
of millions of Venezuelans who do not want President Chavez any more, who want
him to listen and abide by the will of the people. He uses the OAS negotiations not to solve
this situation, but to play for time to obtain the political objectives of his
project.... Society is not coup-mongering nor terrorist. It is fighting for its democracy and for the
future of a Venezuela in which even the Chavista minority can benefit, a
Venezuela with room for all of us, and not the classless, marginalized 'utopia'
Chavez aspires to."
"The Hour Of The Soldier"
Caracas governor Antonio Ledezma commented in
mass-circulation, government sympathetic Ultimas Noticias (12/19): "The citizen participation in the
current events in our country is simply exceptional. The presence of citizens from all sectors, of
all ages, in public demonstrations, is the true engine of this struggle without
precedent in the political history of Venezuela.... What is extraordinarily
significant in all of this is to know that they are defending our democracy....
That is why we protest against a president who violates the rule of law,
ignores the rules of democracy and attempts to impose his desires on a society
that refuses to give in to the whims of a dictator.... He must be contained by
our Armed Forces who, in these circumstances, must make him respect the
constitution and the laws of the republic.
The auto-coup must be stopped."
"A Trial Is The Fastest"
Former presidential candidate Claudio Fermin commented in an op-ed
in centrist El Globo (12/18): "The most important leaders of the
government try to ignore all the complaints and present them as evidence of
political resentment or, in the worst case, conspiracy against the constitution
and the people. This is buffoonery. Nobody believes this, not even them..... They
are afraid of the voice of the people and so sabotage the people's right to
express themselves.... If one thing is clear with all these demonstrations,
it's that the majority of Venezuelans are tired of the president.... They are aware that there is no more
time for him and they are aware of the
irreversible damage that violence and the sowing of hatred are doing to the
country.... The pressure must continue, with an eye toward elections.....
There's no other way - unless the Supreme Court takes out of its desk drawers
the accusations against Chavez for misuse of billions of dollars from the FIEM
or for having received foreign campaign contributions. If this happens, all this will be resolved,
because a criminal cannot be President."
"A Decision For Liberty"
Conservative, anti-government popular 2001
ran an editorial (12/18): "The OAS resolution will be encouraging for
those Venezuelans who believe in democracy and freedom, since we are faced with
the brazenness of a government that tries to ignore the seriousness of the
crisis in Venezuela. We refuse to
believe that the regime has no idea of this seriousness; we do believe that its
attitude responds to the interests of Chavez's political project. The situation
the country finds itself in is not the fault of the opposition nor of the civic
actions it has undertaken - national civic strike, marches, demonstrations,
pot-banging - so that Chavez will either convene elections or resign. The fault is that only of the government that
refuses to allow a democratic, peaceful, electoral solution."
national Ultimas Noticias ran an op-ed by political leader Pedro Ortega
Diaz (12/18): "We were surprised by
Gaviria's energetic rejection of the just popular protest against the
aggressive and unfair position of the media against President Chavez and his
government. In Venezuela the media, with
few exceptions, have completely lost their course and have stopped being true
informers and have become politically partial, with all the errors and crimes
of the Venezuelan opposition.... The peaceful and legal protest by the vanguard
of our people that occurred December 9 was not only fair and legally permitted,
but also served as a type of catharthis and satisfaction for popular
sectors. We believe that Mr. Gaviria's
public statement was not correct...and that you should advise the media owners
to try to find once again a path of information policy that is more objective."
"To Your Own Business"
Editor Rafael del Naranco published a column in
afternoon El Mundo (12/18):
"Army Commander General Garcia Montoya issued a statement saying there is
an effort underway to overthrow the government... You're right, General, but -
and it's a big 'but' - this political and industrial face-off is done by
civilians and forms part of the national context.... Do the Democratic Coordinator, the CTV and
Fedecamaras want to overthrow Chavez?
Very true. This is the valid game of democracy and its primary
appendage: politics. Does the President use all the resources of power to stop
this effort? Does he scream to the skies
and before the gates of hell and emit six-hour speeches against 'the
treacherous petroleum managers?' That's
valid, too.... The fight is without rifles, mortars or cannons; it's politics,
within the wide, solid, always productive game of democracy. May the best man win."
"The Rupture Of Legality"
Liberal national daily-of-record El Nacional
editorialized (12/18): "Legality, the rule of law, has been systematically
violated from the beginning of Chavez's government. His verbal intemperance and unmeasured
demands when one of the other branches of power did not please him, as happened
with the Supreme Court, unleashed campaigns of slander and moral annihilation
never before seen in Venezuela.... If we
had independent branches of power, none of this would have reached this
point.... When the president, in one of his dictatorial rants, ordered his
generals to ignore judges' sentences, he confessed what he had planned and
previously kept private. Now he breaks
appearances and preaching of invoking the constitution.... The alarming
presidential aggression shakes the very foundations of the government. No one can keep silent any more about such a
violation of the nation's judicial order.... Those who tried to be
'understanding' about Venezuela's situation in the OAS, a minority that drew
out the discussions and sought subtleties and 'safeguards,' did not have time
to calibrate the breaking of the rule of law in Venezuela that moved--at last
--the Attorney General to speak out."
"The Degradation Of The Rule Of Law"
Conservative national daily-of-record El
Universal commented in an editorial (12/17): "We face the daily
contradiction between a conceptual government, its lack of coherence as far as
governability, and democratic principles.
An authoritarian government leaps over the impediments of the
constitution and the laws in an emergency; a democratic one plans, decides and
acts in accordance with legality. The
consequence is a dangerous degradation of the rule of law. That is why the opposition, whose majority
status is indisputable, has to defend, with all means at its disposition, the
system of freedoms, counting on the Democracy Charter. A radical strike could be resolved via
democratic instruments and negotiation, sitting down to discuss differences in
a civilized manner.... With Venezuela's
active strike, the exact opposite has occurred: the government has thrown fuel
on the fire and defied its adversaries.... In this context, the government has
invaded private property without search warrants, forcibly expropriated fuel
transport trucks, deprived the owners of their property, and ignored the
constitution.... The rule of law has
been mortally wounded, since the state organisms charged with overseeing and
punishing abuses of power show an absolute submission to the executive branch,
and impunity is the rule (even justifying the murderous action in Altamira
"The Leader Is US"
Influential journalist Roberto Giusti argued in
conservative national daily-of-record El Universal (12/17): "So far
- and we are in the final rounds of this fight - civil society is winning this
battle between democracy and dictatorship.
Although one shouldn't oversimplify the crisis to one basic dilemma, at
the end this is all about the will of a megalomaniac lost in the delirium of
power, against the will of an entire people who, without firing a shot and
religiously tied to its own strength, are on the verge of seizing a historic
victory.... At some point soon, the
decent military, who are the great majority, will join the movement. The same will happen with the sensible Chavistas
in the Congress and the Supreme Court, though I fear inertia and cowardice will
continue to reign in the Attorney General, the People's Defender and the
Comptroller. They all know that there is
still time, that they can join the bandwagon in time to avoid what only Chavez
and his Talibans want. If they do it in
time, they will be vindicated. If not,
they will pass into history as sad accomplices of a criminal hallucinated by
"This Is Why We're Going To Die And
Columnist Jorge Olavarria pointed out in liberal
national daily-of-record El Nacional (12/17): "In the Venezuela
governed by Chavez there has never been and there is not now separation of
powers, no independent judicial organs, no democratic state of law. It is all a farce, a lie and a deceit. In the name of this constitutional legality,
our Armed Forces officers ask us to kill and die, and puts its arms at the
service of a demagogic usurper who has destroyed Venezuela?"
Afternoon Tal Cual commented in an
editorial (12/16): "Yesterday the
President had another screw come loose.
He ordered garrison commanders and governors to ignore judicial
decisions. It seems like Chavez and his
Talibans no longer know what they're doing....
Everything he is doing is a naked and open use of force as the ultimate
reason of his power.... While circumstances advise him to understand that he
can no longer govern democratically an angered country, that it is not going to
obey him, and that day after it demonstrates this with a massive presence in
the street - an arena that Chavism no longer appears - and that the politically
sensible thing to do is make a political arrangement that allows an escape to
this generalized state of political disobedience - Chavez and his crew accelerate
their movement toward the definitive loss of all constitutional and legal
legitimacy. The call to ignore judicial
decisions, with an aside threatening governors of the opposition, are elements
of a coup - or better said, an auto-coup.... How the hell can he be so stupid
as to not understand that to deny a political solution today condemns him to
govern outside the law, and that this path will lead the country to a
"From Bad To Worse"
Afternoon, government-sympathetic El Mundo
published a column by editor Rafael del Naranco asserting (12/16): "It seems like good sense, consideration
and good judgment are disappearing from the mind of the head of state to a
worrisome degree. It's no longer just
furious attacks on the opposition and its spokesmen, something normal in
political rhetoric, especially since most of the time his opponents are no less
aggressive and fire heavy attacks against him, the Bolivarian Circles and the
government.... But yesterday during his talk was the last straw by the
president as far as sense is concerned.
Jesus! What happened to Hugo
Chavez? Has he lost all sense? Has he forgotten that he is supposed to be
the guarantor of the Bolivarian constitution he himself wrote during his months
in jail, and which was approved thanks to his charisma, gift of persuasion and
rhetoric?.... It's difficult for us to
understand his reaction.... In calling
for the military to ignore judicial decisions... he erred, and left the blatant
sensation that he is interfering in one of the three pillars of democracy, the
"A Christmas Bonus For Venezuelans"
In an op-ed for conservative national
daily-of-record, former presidential candidate Francisco Arias Cardenas wrote
an op-ed in El Universal (12/16): "Venezuelans need to give
ourselves the gift of an agreement that, during the first months of 2003, we
will go to the polls and vote on a constitutional amendment that lets us choose
the government as soon as possible."
"The Kicking Of A Drowning Man"
Leading liberal national daily-of-record El
Nacional said in an editorial (12/16): "When the OAS Permanent Council
meets today, it should consider President Chavez's order yesterday that the
Armed Forces 'not obey the courts' under any circumstances.... The Venezuelan government appeals to the OAS,
hoping it will give it carte blanche as 'a legitimate president.' No one has ever denied this,r eally; but
we're not talking about the government's origin now, but rather its actions and
abuses that have annulled its legitimacy.... The OAS representatives have a
clear choice, if they want to effectively contribute to resolving our political
crisis: openly back the mission of SG Gaviria.... The GoV is advancing in its stubborn effort
to impose its will by force, violating national and international laws.... Not
even under a state of exception could the abusive actions taken by the
government be justified.... The government is kicking like a drowning man. It makes us appear before the whole world as
an uncivilized country where every act of force is legitimate. This happened in response to the most
extraordinary demonstration ever seen in the world. The hemisphere saw this Sunday [during
Chavez's speech] more evidence of the type of regime that has imposed itself on
Venezuela. It is rejected by the entire
nation with reason."
"After Saturday's Mega-March"
An op-ed for centrist El Globo by former
President Herrera Campins pointed out (12/16): "The Venezuelan people
continue to give proof of civics and courage even in the most difficult
circumstances, when it faces with unique fearlessness and tenacity the
totalitarian threats of the autocracy in power.
No one denies Chavez's election legitimacy in 1998. But the incorrect and arbitrary use of power,
with multiple violations of the constitution and the existing legal order, have
Popular, mass-circulation Ultimas Noticias
ran a column by pro-government editor Eleazer Diaz Rangel (12/15): "I
trust that there will be a consensus here and that soon the National Assembly
will discuss matters that include the issue of a constitutional amendment,
which is the fundamental question as far as cutting short the presidential
term, fixing dates for elections, choosing the National Electoral Council,
etc.... Where is the resistance to this
proposal?... On the government side...
it appears that the hardest positions are beginning to cede. The greater resistance is among the
opposition... The hawks have declared that the strike is until Chavez falls,
and they dismiss any electoral solution.... What makes more difficult an
agreement right now is not the lack of will on the part of the negotiators at
the talks, but rather the extremist positions that have surely not played all
their cards. Anything could happen. One supposes that the Armed Forces are
ARGENTINA: "Venezuela: Food and Oil
Shortage, Anger and Sadness in Christmas"
Daniel Juri, on special assignment in Caracas
for leading Clarin opined (12/19): "Caracas is overwhelmed, and its
people are eyeing each other with distrust, from one street to the other. The
equation is simple: here, you're either with Chavez or against him. Chavez is
everything or nothing. He's good and evil. The best and the worst that could
occur to this country. And, amidst this never-ending division, growing tension
rocks and corners the city, as if a barrel of gunpowder had started to roll
down the hot pavement. Everybody knows:
it can blow up any minute. The strike launched by businessmen and labor unions
together with some political parties and NGO's has been going on for seventeen
days now.... Looks like the government of Venezuela wants the atmosphere of
chaos to continue, amid its political self-centeredness: yesterday, its
Minister of Interior said the strike doesn't exist and that despite the current
situation in the country 'it's not the government that's affected, but the
people.' The truth is that even though Chavez' people deny it, the strike is
directly affecting Venezuela where it hurts most: practically blocking its
entire oil production... It's also affecting the domestic oil market and
leading to the shortage of food, but also of beer and cigarettes in a country
where smoking and drinking are almost a national sport. Everyday life in Venezuela
has turned into a nightmare."
"Violent Clashes In Caracas?"
Michael Soltys, liberal, English-language Buenos
Aires Herald's executive editor, wrote (12/17): "Last week, the U.S.
forced the pace of events in Venezuela by pressing for early elections or a
referendum.... Inhibited by memories of April (when it moved too quickly to
recognize the exit of Venezuelan President Chavez after massive protests and
bloodshed, only for Chavez to be restored two days later by loyalist troops),
the State Department has reacted slowly this time but things are clearly
running out of hand when a country like Venezuela has to import oil. After all,
14% of the U.S. market is supplied from Venezuela with a Middle East conflict
looming. While opting for early elections, the U.S. has yet to find consensus
among Organization of American States (OAS) colleagues. But time is running out
fast for a peaceful solution. The vital oil industry is 90% crippled as the
conflict between Chavez and his opposition escalates with the ex-paratrooper
relying increasingly on military intervention while strikers vow not to stop
until Chavez is out.... Beyond oil, tension is mounting. Over a million marched
in Caracas last weekend.... The press is being attacked on both sides, mostly
the private media opposing Chavez but also government mouthpieces by the
opposition. Perhaps the smartest thing
Chavez could do in this context would be to accede to early elections, thus
placing the ball in the court of a divided opposition."
"Army Backs Chavez and Condemns Economic
Ludmila Vinogradoff, filed from Caracas for
leading Clarin (12/17):
"Venezuelan army's top brass gave its support to President Chavez and
warned the opposition it won't tolerate a collapse in Venezuela's economy,
after 15 days of a general strike launched by the opposition in an attempt to
obtain Chavez' resignation. The army's declaration was issued on the same day
the opposition announced it's 'ready to take over Caracas through a series of
simultaneous rallies' summoned for next Thursday and Friday.... From
Washington, the White House declared its support for a referendum regarding the
continuation or not of Chavez as Venezuela's president, moving away from
Venezuela's opposition, which demands his immediate resignation and calls for
early elections - an issue which violates the country's constitution. Spokesman
Ari Fleischer said the U.S. backs a referendum 'to listen to the people's will'
and made clear that 'we're not calling for the introduction of amendments' to
"Army Supports Chavez"
Liberal, English-language Buenos Aires Herald
observed (12/17): "Venezuela's army yesterday threw its weight behind
efforts by President Chavez to break an opposition strike, describing the
shutdown of the nation's vital oil industry as an attack against the state.....
General Montoya urged representatives from both sides of the political divide
to settle the crisis in the world's No. 5 oil exporter.... The opposition
strike, which started December 2, has rattled oil markets and fuelled tensions
in the sharply divided South America nation.... The White House again urged
Chavez to call early elections, but seemed to modify its stance by stressing -
as Chavez has insisted - that those elections should come only under the rules
spelled out in Venezuela's Constitution. Chavez has rejected demands for his
resignation in early elections, saying the Constitution doesn't allow them
until August, the midway point in his current six-year term."
"Washington Changes and Moves Away From
Business-financial Ambito Financiero
stated (12/17): "Yesterday the U.S. announced it supports a referendum on
Venezuelan President Chavez, moving away from its previous declarations and
from the opposition which calls for his immediate resignation and early
elections. On Friday, the White House had increased international pressure on
Chavez by saying that early elections were the only possible solution to
Venezuela's crisis.... But yesterday, White House spokesman Fleischer told the
press that the U.S. supports a referendum 'to listen to what people have to
say', although he didn't specify a date."
BRAZIL: "Paper Conspiracy"
Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo political
columnist Clovis Rossi reported from Caracas (12/21): "The Venezuelan
media's behavior vis-a-vis the crisis is perhaps an unprecedented scandal in
the not-always-noble history of Latin America's press. The five principal
private television channels and nine of the ten major dailies have been
transformed into a battering ram [designed to] overthrow President Hugo
Chavez.... Chavez has been accused by the opposition of trying to introduce
into Venezuela a Cuban Castro-like regime.
But to use the lines [in front of Venezuelan gas stations] to suggest
the comparison is in unbelievably bad faith. The lines in Cuba exist due to
lack of goods. They exist in Caracas today because of a political strike being
conducted by the management of the state-owned oil sector.... The worst thing
[about this state of affairs] is that the media's view is contaminating
information going overseas."
"Dare To Do, Dare To Win"
Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo political
commentator Clovis Rossi observed from Caracas (12/20): "Venezuela is
involved in an extremely serious crisis about which it is difficult to obtain
reliable information, because the local media is part of the conspiracy against
Hugo Chavez.... What helps make [Lula's initiative] so visible is the fact that
the U.S., traditionally the nation that creates and/or resolves problems, has
pursued an erratic policy in Venezuela. It has left a gap that only Brazil, due
to its importance in the region, can fill."
Right-of-center O Globo says in its
editorial (12/19): "It would only take a sign of flexibility from
President Chavez to undo Venezuela's impasse--and save the country from the
abyss' edge. But he has preferred to continue to radicalize the situation as if
he needed an excuse to take over all power in the name of order and
legality. He doesn't realize that he
will be isolated if he falls into the temptation of a coup.... At this delicate
moment the common sense of General Raul Isaias--head of the country's most
important military unit--is comforting.
He told 'O Globo' that if the Armed Forces are forced to intervene it
will be to re-establish order and to defend the Constitution, never to take
over power. Statements like these
demonstrate that military insubordination is not one of the crisis' fuses. All this should serve to show mediators that
the best way out is to change Chavez' thinking.
First, convince him that even with the Constitution on his side he
doesn't have a monopoly over common sense.
And also that advancing elections is not a defeat, but rather a tactful
withdrawal to relieve tension--especially when polls indicate he would be re-elected."
"The Way Out For Chavez"
Respected center-left Jornal do Brasil
editorialized (12/17): "The
[American] Continent today breathes the pure oxygen of democracy and any
attempt to change this status should take that into consideration. Constitution
is the way out for Venezuela. Any other
alternative has little chance of succeeding. Chavez is stuck in an
institutional corner.... The U.S. is doing a "mea culpa" for its recent disastrous
diplomatic performance and has pointed to
the plebiscite as the constitutional way out. Moreover, the U.S. must be careful to prevent itself, under the pretense
of an institutional solution, from even the slightest intention to intervene.
This would a worst disaster, not only
for Venezuela but for the whole Latin American continent. Chavez's chess-board
has few pieces left. The main one is OAS
- which should act as the judge in
Venezuela's impasse. There is also the
U.S. and Brazil...Brazil has great
political importance in the region, in addition to sharing borders with
Venezuela.... Venezuela's example serves to reflect on the power of the
presidential regime in young democracies. Unlike the parliamentary system, it
concentrates power in the figure of the president and makes crises more difficult to control. That is the case with Chavez. He should seek a plebiscite to determine whether he should
remain in power. If he doesn't, it will
just be a coup."
An opinion piece in right-of-center O Globo
asserted (12/16): "It's evident that President Hugo Chavez is incapable of
lifting Venezuela from the crisis
alone. Everything he does stimulates
misunderstanding and radicalization -
for example, the recent military guidelines to ignore Judiciary
decisions which are contrary to the Executive's decrees. It is as if Chavez
foments dissention purposefully in order to have an excuse to seize total control with military
support. Confrontation is the formula to split Venezuela - partly as a
result of the President's authoritarian
style. Ultimately [the formula] of
CANADA: "Venezuela Drifts Toward
The liberal Toronto Star opined (12/19):
"Hugo Chavez may be Venezuela's freely elected president, but he is fast
losing his people's confidence. A
million took to the streets this week demanding his resignation and fresh
elections. Two million have signed a petition to that effect. For every
Venezuelan who compares him to a saviour, there's another who calls him a
dictator.... Put simply, Venezuela's elite is having a hard time accepting the
most basic tenet of democracy: Whoever wins an election has the right to govern
for a full term. The rebellion has dark implications for all of Latin America's
fragile democracies. Canada and the other OAS countries should insist on a
peaceful, lawful resolution to this crisis. Chavez may be autocratic, but is no
tyrant.... Chavez would be smart to recognize that he needs to re-establish his
legitimacy, and agree to early elections.
But if he does not, Venezuela's putsch-friendly elite should wait until
August, before demanding a vote. Whatever damage they fear Chavez may do to
their interests between now and then will be nothing compared to the damage
they will do to democracy and civil order, if they oust him lawlessly."
"Here's A Plan To Stop Venezuela's Descent
Columnist Paul Knox commented in the leading Globe
and Mail (12/17): "Distasteful as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may
be, he was elected by popular vote and should not be deposed by a marching
mob....The strike and associated protests have created South America's latest
political crisis and posed a stark question to other governments of the
Americas: You say you want constitutional democracy to be the norm throughout
the Western Hemisphere. Does that mean all the time, or just when it produces
the right result?... [Mr. Chavez] is the classic demagogue, seeking to remould
corrupt and feckless institutions by the power of his own speeches and
personality. He has little talent for conciliation -- and that is one reason
why the threatened middle and upper classes have managed to unite in opposition
to him.... What's the solution? Here's one possibility: The OAS could seek
agreement from both sides to install a commission of observers in Venezuela.
This body, headed by a respected Latin American figure, would be able to
receive reports of abuses of the rule of law or constitutional procedure,
investigate them and issue a monthly summary of its findings.... In return, the
opposition would end the general strike. Mr. Chavez would agree to submit to a
recall vote as provided in the constitution, and call new elections if he lost.
This plan would build on the principle of election observation.... Democracy,
we are frequently reminded, is more than just ballot boxes. Why, then, should
observation missions be limited to elections? Somehow, Venezuela's descent into
chaos must be stopped without further bloodshed, and without yielding to the
authoritarian temptations that are evident on both sides."
MEXICO: "Chavez Loses Initiative"
Angel Guerra Cabrera wrote in far-left Jornada
(12/19): "The battle currently
facing Venezuela pits Hugo Chavez, the majority of poor people, and the army
against a coalition of forces subordinated to Washington--the so-called
Democratic Coordination. This group is
made up of classes and sectors that have benefited from the rent-seeking oil
economic model--a group that maintains its economic power, even though it has
been discredited by the government…it turns to the middle classes…in which it
finds a receptive audience for hysterical messages of the mass media,
controlled by the oligarchy. The fascist
ideology of the opposition coalition was evident before, during, and after the
failed April 11 coup, which was orchestrated by the Bush administration under
the supervision of then AS WHA Otto Reich, and the Cuban counterrevolution in
Miami. (This group) calls, on one hand,
for all or nothing--the resignation of Chavez--while it pretends to negotiate
with the government. The resistance of
the Venezuelan people against military coups has prevented the triumph of the
opposition until now, but it can’t quash this initiative on its own…this can
only be achieved by Chavez’s administration if it decides to take two types of
steps: 1) to utilize all of its powers within the rule of law to defend the
nation from illegal and subversive actions; and 2) to move ahead, without
hesitation, on the project of emancipation contained in the Constitution and
the nation’s laws."
"Chavez: Without Gas?"
The lead editorial in top national El Tiempo
asserted (12/18): "It is
appropriate to ask whether President Hugo Chavez administration is running out
of gas necessary to keep going or even to continue without making at least one
concession that would calm the civil unrest climate in the country.... Events...oblige Chavez to rethink his
position. Holding on to power without
showing signs of opening up to the opposition--an opposition which should also
revise its irrational stance--means exposing the country to both unprecedented
economic deterioration and violence with unpredictable consequences."
"OAS Questionable Intervention"
An editorial in leading-circulation, popular La
Tercera judged (12/20): "Venezuela is going through one of its worst
crises. To the 18-day strike and the
inability of Hugo Chavez' government and his opponents to find a democratic
solution, one might add the questionable role of the OAS.... The statement issued by the OAS was
weak... It was a declaration of
principles that did not help solve the crisis.
Once more the efficiency of the organization to resolve hemispheric
conflicts is in doubt... The OAS cannot limit itself to simple condemnations or
statements of principles.... It must take action and promote peace and
democracy using all means. The
organization's inefficiency reflects the lack of determination of its members. It is the job of the OAS and its member states
to engage more and with more determination.
Said differently, perhaps the U.S will be the one to stop a catastrophe
in Venezuela, and not regional organizations."
GUATEMALA: "Chavez, The Beginning Of The end"
Leading, moderate Prensa Libre said in
its main editorial (12/17): "While
the president ignores the definite demonstrations against him, as well as the
charges made by the international community, and trusts he may continue with
the support of a still considerable segment of the population, Venezuela is
heading to chaos that will take a long time to recover from, even after
(Chavez) accepts reality and abandons power."
PANAMA: "Venezuela, Another Victim"
Conservative El Panama America ran an op-ed
by Carlos David Abadia (12/19): "I
believe that the exit of this Venezuelan crisis will be bloody, there is no way
in which this individual can abandon the power in a civilized way. Some will say he should end his period
because he was elected for it, but I believe that by his doings he lost the
legitimacy of the vote.... From the Venezuelan crisis we should get some
learnings. First, the vote must be
respected...second, people should react with intelligence and not with
passion...we should not believe in false Messiahs...we should participate more
in the political life in order to obtain knowledge.... We should reflect
seriously because the Chavez's and Fujimoris, and others, are patrolling the
political arena to take advantage of the situation. As Gandhi said, 'When decent men do not
participate in politics, the corrupt take advantage of it, therefore the decent
men will have to keep silent'"
"Venezuelan Crisis: Between The Process,
The Person And Petroleum"
Independent La Prensa's Washington
correspondent Betty Brannan stated(12/15): "Few in Washington have noticed
the crisis in Venezuela.... The White House, the Department of State, and the
U.S. editors have kept almost total silence on the subject. This silence is part of the fact that the war
against terrorism and other problems are keeping the Bush administration
forgetting about Latin America.... It
also partially responds to the errors made back in April, when the Bush
Administration took actions to support the attempted military coup against
President Chavez.... It is my opinion that if the Venezuelans elected Chavez,
they will have to put up with him (tough luck).... Those opposed to Chavez may
have found the correct formula to ask for a 'consultive referendum'...but it is
not clear if this referendum could be done immediately or they'll have to wait
until August.... Essentially, is that the opposition and the government will
have to abide to the procedures stated in the Constitution and that the United
States keep loyal to the democratic principles."
PERU: "The Crisis in Venezuela is Becoming
Reliable business Gestion stressed in its
editorial (12/20): "The crisis in Venezuela has become more acute... The
economy is seriously affected by the disruption of...oil production and
export.... The actions taken by the government to ensure... the provision of
oil and food...may become part of...a series of measures...that represent a
threat to private property in Venezuela.... The situation, together with the
concern about a war against Iraq, has caused an increase in...the price of
oil.... The U.S...is concerned about the threat it entails for its...economic
recuperation.... Latin America and the
world...are focusing their attention in the development of the crisis, which
affects the fifth major oil producer in the world... The most viable solution
seems to be a...referendum early next year."
"Venezuela At The Breaking Point"
Straightforward, flagship El Comercio
observed (12/18): "The situation...in Venezuela is really critical... In
the face of such a deep political crisis, the OAS has urged the parties to
decide for a 'peaceful, constitutional and electoral solution' which...the U.S.
supports. Formally, the Chavez regime
agrees to this...initiative, but in practice, it persists in showing a
confrontational attitude.... In such a
difficult scenario...the parties are urged...to reestablish dialogue.... It is
urgent that both the opposition and the
government, but especially the government, demonstrate their good will...before
the crisis becomes unmanageable."
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: "Chavez's
In its Opinion Column the liberal Trinidad
Express newspaper-of-record (12/18): "Trinidad and Tobago and the
other countries in Caricom can hardly afford to back-pedal in their support for
the embattled administration of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The world's only remaining super-power may be
becoming increasingly lukewarm towards Mr. Chavez, to put it mildly, but he is
the duly elected leader of the world's fifth largest petroleum producer. In fact, it is open to question just how
much of Mr. Chavez's present problems has been fuelled by the imperialistic
tendencies the United States has always had towards Latin America, given that
America has been found to have played an embarrassing hand when Mr. Chavez was
almost overthrown in an attempted coup earlier this year..... It is difficult to understand, then, why the
American president, George Bush, should be insisting on early elections unless
his Republican administration wishes to be seen to be serving the interests of
Venezuela's upper classes to which it may feel itself more ideologically aligned. The abiding democratic question, though, is
what is to be done to improve the quality of life of the Venezeulan
majority? Or to direct the question to
the rich and comfortable in our big neighbor next door - what guarantees does
Caricom and, indeed, the rest of the world have that a president and
administration of their choosing would share President Chavez's concern for the
downtrodden power? The truth is, however, Venezuela can hardly forever be
careening from side to side. Saddled not
least by his own mistakes, Mr. Chavez may have to quickly perceive that it is
far more difficult to bring revolutionary change to a country than to stage a
BRITAIN: "Paratrooper Paranoia"
An editorial in the conservative Times
stated (12/16): "Venezuelans poured into the streets demanding the
resignation of a President whose adventurism, and misrule have brought one of
Latin America's potentially richest countries to the verge of economic
collapse.... Chavez has lost the confidence of the middle classes, scared away
investors, antagonized the Americans, undermined the economy and resorted to
ever more desperate measured to bolster his fading image as a champion of the
poor.... The former army paratrooper's
record since his landslide election victory in 1998 has been one of
failure... The country is beginning to
weary of his antics.... [The US] depends heavily on Venezuela for oil, and
cannot afford a sudden interruption in supplies in the run-up to a possible war
with Iraq.... The difficulty is a constitutional ban on snap elections.... A coup is the worst way of changing
governments.... Venezuela's politicians
must be persuaded that, if the country is to avoid further disaster, they must
find a way for Chavez to be voted out of office as swiftly as
GERMANY: "Protest Activities...Will Reach A
Erik-Michael Bader stated in an editorial in
center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/21): "In Venezuela, we can
see where it leads to, once opposition groups call upon the people to 'go on
the warpath' against a regularly elected government that has embarked upon a
worrying course. Slowly but gradually,
the protest activities organized by a broad coalition of opposition groups,
will reach a critical point. If the
opposition heeded the order of the Supreme Court to suspend the strike until it
has made a decision on the legitimacy of the strike, the impetus of the protest
rallies would be gone. If it continues
to disregard the Court's order, it will considerably weaken its own legitimacy. For the United States, the paralysis of one
of its most important oil supplier, shortly before a looming war in the
Mideast, comes at the worst time. The
United States shows the first signs of unease."
"The Right Verdict, The Wrong Judges"
Hinnerk Berlekamp argued in left-of-center
Berliner Zeitung (12/20):
"Venezuela's Supreme Court handed Hugo Chavez a damper. The judges made Chavez understand that he
should accept the limits of his power and respect them. They are right. But it is a different story whether the
verdict can help contribute cooling the heated-up atmosphere in Venezuela. The opposition will now even intensify its
campaign to oust the president after the judges backed their efforts with such
a ruling. Among government supporters, however, the Court lost its credibility
in August already when the same judges acquitted the leaders of a failed coup
attempt presenting flimsy arguments. For
them, the latest ruling is only a further attempt that justice authorities
continue to play the game of the old oligarchy that Chavez deprived of its
"A Country Is Collapsing"
Carl Goerdeler had this to say in an editorial
in center-right General-Anzeiger of Bonn (12/19): "With his verbal
immoderateness, his inflated gestures, and military nepotism, President Hugo
Chavez has managed to ruin the oil nation Venezuela in a record-breaking
pace. He now even wants to use
foreigners to replace striking oil workers.
In the end, Chavez must search for a different people. It is not certain that Chavez will find
enough supporters to come out as the winner of new elections, which the
opposition demands and Washington recommends.
That is why he is shying away from such elections. He insists on the Constitution that does not
require a vote of no-confidence. Hugo
Chavez wants to sit out the trouble, while the opposition wants to push him out
of office. If there were elections
tomorrow, Chavez's opponents would have the majority but no convincing
candidate. Thus the deeply divided
Venezuela is heading for an abyss, even for a civil war."
"No Solution For Venezuela"
Hildegard Stausberg noted in an editorial in
right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (12/16): The situation of Venezuelans
has never been as bad as it is now; according to UN statistics, some 80 percent
live below the poverty level. President
Chavez has exploited the country, as did the other elites before him. Cesar Gaviria, General Secretary of the OAS,
has not been able to negotiate a solution.
Neither the opposition demanding Chavez's departure nor the president
clinging to power shows any interest in reconciliation. There appears to be no way out of this
dilemma, and civil war or an assassination is becoming more and more likely."
RUSSIA: "Chavez Is No Allende"
Boris Volkhonskiy held in reformist
business-oriented Kommersant (12/20): "It is unlikely that Hugo
Chavez will hold out if he acts as Allende, who, in his commitment to the
Constitution, did not flinch even in the face of death. This means that the Venezuelan President has
little choice, having either to fight on to stay in people's minds as a hero
and martyr or turn off onto the path his other idol [Fidel Castro] has been
treading the past 50 years. The former is out since Hugo Chavez is certainly
not the idealist Salvador Allende. The
latter seems far more plausible. The
trouble is that Chavez the president costs a lot more than his Cuban
counterpart. Just as Venezuelan oil
costs more than Cuban sugar. Nobody
would put up with an undisguised dictatorship in a country that ranks fifth in
the world in oil exports. So it appears
that Chavez has no choice at all. With
some 60 lives taken in an aborted coup last April, he can't really hope to
retire and get away with it. It is too
late. Many people inside Venezuela and
outside it will only be happy to place entire responsibility on the
incumbent. Come to think of it, the only
way open to Chavez is that of Slobodan Milosevic."
"War, Famine And Murder, Glory Be!"
A comment by Vincent Browne in the liberal Irish
Times noted (12/18): "Last week the U.S. administration intervened
openly for the first time in the crisis in Venezuela. Unsurprisingly, it
intervened to support the calls of the opposition groups for early presidential
elections there. Apparently the Americans are worried about a democratic
deficit in Venezuela.... Now an
administration led by a President who got half-a-million fewer votes than his
rival expresses concerns about the constitutional legitimacy of Hugo Chavez as
President of Venezuela! There was an abortive coup in April against Chavez, and
the Americans were caught red-handed in the coup plot. Now they are at it
again, stoking up the powerful business interests, supported by an elite among
the working class - primarily those engaged in the oil industry - to oust a
leader who has defied the neo-liberal economic orthodoxy and challenged the
US's self-appointed pre-eminence in world affairs."
INDONESIA: "Greater Unrest Threatens
Leading independent Kompas (12/16)
commented: "Chavez is still considered as the most popular leader although
his image has dropped sharply.... It is probably for this reason that Chavez
still maintains self-confidence, unaffected by U.S. pressure or internal
protests. His confidence was fostered,
among other things, by his success to evade a coup d'état in April.... The social and economic unrest has also
affected political life. The opposition groups are using the economic chaos as
an opportunity to demand Chavez' resignation.
The combination between economic and political crises will only worsen
the situation, and will in turn cause greater vulnerability and danger. In fact, Venezuela's economic and political
infrastructures are among the strongest in Latin America."
THAILAND: "There’s Trouble In The Pipeline”
The lead editorial in independent, English
language Nation read (12/18): “Should the position in Venezuela continue
to deteriorate and oil prices continue to rise, the impact on the world economy
will be serious. Higher oil prices have
played a part in every economic downturn since World War II and it would be
almost impossible for America, the world’s main economic engine, to bounce back
quickly from its current slump if crude prices rise further… What is needed is
compromise and negotiations. The only
peaceful and politically viable way out of Venezuela’s crisis is some form of
popular say on the situation, be it a confidence vote, referendum or election. The opposition groups need to allow Chavez
some time to regroup and organize, at the very least to save face. Chavez needs to realize that he can’t keep an
angry population at bay for nine months.
Venezuela’s neighbors and the foreign community also need to keep a
closer watch on the situation. Much is
SRI LANKA: "Venezuela, Threatened By
Sinhala Lakbima, commented (12/19):
"Because President Hugo Chavez has connection with Libya and
Iraq--he visited both countries recently -- America wishes his downfall. Some allege that America is behind the coup
that took place in Venezuela in April, although Washington denies the
allegation.... Meanwhile the U.S. claims
that the strike is reasonable and that President Hugo Chavez should immediately
resign and hold elections." ##