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The road to ALBA, the "Cubanization" of Venezuela, part 2

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Part 2

Chavez emerged stronger from the coup, regaining political strength by charging that the media and business had crafted a "conspiracy against him and the Venezuelan people." A lack of leadership and cohesion among business elites, labor and clergy prior to and during the coup lost their momentum and almost immediately their legitimacy. Conservative elements overplayed their hand by moving to reverse Chavez's populist decrees that comprised the Bolivarian Revolution as they tried to immediately remove the National Assembly and Supreme Court.

Journalists and the media became ground zero for press control:

The media and Chavez have long been at war, with the president accusing journalists of lying to the people and with even some media executives -- such as El Nacional publisher Miguel Otero -- admitting that the industry was opposed to Chavez. The battle now is coming to a head over the media's role in Chavez's brief ouster. Journalists have been accused of everything from support and encouragement for the coup to outright participation in it. Chavez has floated the idea of a conspiracy of elites that includes the hostile media.

By early 2004, the Venezuelan National Armed Forces (FAN) was well underway to being transformed into an instrument that would forestall a second coup attempt, advance the Bolivarian Revolution, and seek to counter regional threats from US-sponsored Columbia:

  • Purging and restructuring command structure of FAN's active-duty officers combined with generous salary and benefits increases
  • Recruiting noncommissioned officers and troops committed to the Bolivarian revolution, e.g., Bolivarian Circle militias and other Chavista groups into a people's reserve army outside direct FAN control, and the Bolivarian Liberation Front (FBL) militia
  • Improved communication between FAN senior commanders and clandestine armed civilian Chavista groups
  • New weapons systems acquisitions

Cuban advisors, overt and covert, assist in restructuring the FAN as well as providing security and political advice. While English quotes of Chavez's comments vary, there is some consistency to his statement that Cuba and Venezuela are "sailing" or "swimming together toward the same sea of happiness" (here and here).

Chavez's personal attacks on Bush43 and the US administration appears to have unsettled members of his government and the FAN that the US will retaliate, possibly by using Columbian armed forces. While many military, business and administration groups have profited from the Bolivarian Revolution, they tend to view one another as competitors in economic advantage, seeking to retain their advantage at the expense of others:

[Chavistas] generally became much bolder after the Bolivarian Revolution swept nearly every elected local and regional position in Oct. 31, 2004, regional elections. Without any opposition confronting him, Chavez has accelerated his efforts to consolidate political power. Along with victory has come increased competition between civilian government officials and senior military personnel who have personal economic and political investments in backing the president.

Reshuffling civilian and military positions indicates that Chavez is unsure of a second coup or assassination attempt. Perhaps it is coincidence, but embedded in a warning to the US against assassinating Chavez, I found Castro's comment curious that the US "would be responsible for killing Chavez even if the Venezuelan military was to carry out the assassination." Still, one must wonder at the true level of support that Chavez has with Castro given his relationship with key members that Chavez wants to replace.

Part 4

In the Time of Hugo Chávez
Deborah Sontag
New York Times
June 2, 2002
Mirrored here

Gordon Housworth



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