The Cardinal’s Funeral
Apr 14, 2005
Cardinal Castillo Lara –celebrant of the Mass preceding the burial of his colleague, Cardinal Velasco, Archbishop of Caracas- said that he could not but comment on the political situation of the country.
(DEMOCRACIA Y DESARROLLO July 15th., 2003) This event took place at the Cathedral, where the remains of Venezuelan Cardinals were laid to rest, on Wednesday, 07-09. “Walls and abysses built by the planting of hatred -attempting to defend a political project- are jeopardizing the very existence of Venezuela. Attitudes beyond measure prevail threatening aspects of the very essence of human behavior.” It is obvious that this refers to the presence of Chavista mobs in front of the Cathedral, jeering insults at the Cardinal whose body was laying in the main hallway of the Church. “The shameful sight of some people without respect -hurting the memory of the Cardinal while offering a very sad spectacle- takes place before the passive attitude or complicity of authorities.”
Cardinal Castillo Lara, who had occupied high Vatican posts and enjoyed much respect, summarized a situation showing the abjection and callousness of political behaviors which have become part of the scenery. Walls and abysses of hatred have been created among Venezuelans. This whirl of passions is nourished by the on-going discourse of intolerance and confrontation to defend the revolution.
The radicalized Chavista groups called Talibans have been so mentally affected by revolutionary preaching, that, as they harass the opposition in any event with political content or appearance, they also deem a revolutionary duty to behave so irrationally in an event of deep mourning for a liberal tradition society, always respectful of cults and expressions of religion. Cardinal Castillo Lara asked a question in the minds of many: the passivity of authorities before the excesses of Chavista mobs: is it impotence or complicity? There are solid argument to suspect complicity. The President did not attend the funeral as it had been customary in Venezuela and in most other Catholic countries. He sent a late sympathy message to Archbishop Baltazar Porras, President of the Conference of Venezuelan Bishops (CEV) with undeniable reticence: “It is necessary to acknowledge we had marked and deep differences… Indeed, we were at odds with each other many times.” The Vice President did not attend either. The Chancellor did come and pressured by reporters he condemned the behavior of pro-regime groups while showing his displeasure for Castillo Lara’s words.
THE OPINION OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Cardinal Velasco died during a meeting of The Ordinary Assembly of the Bishops producing a document calling for peace and reconciliation: facing the existence of such antagonistic positions which might lead us to a true national collapse, the need for a popular recall is imperative: a peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral response to the present state of affairs is a must, so that trust and tranquility in the country be restored and institutionality and legitimacy be reinforced. “Towards this end –says the CVB (CEV)- there is, within the present judicial order, the possibility of a constitutional solution: the recall. It is necessary that all public powers guarantee and facilitate the Venezuelan people’s exercise of this constitutional right.”
The document of the Catholic Church is a moving call for reflection on a political conflict overflowing the limits of tolerance, on the risks of the growth of pugnacity and the on-going environment of confrontation and hostility. The reference to the recall repeats paragraphs of the Opposition-Government Accord of last May 29th. Notwithstanding, officialdom affirms that the Church request of the recall is a provocation and evidence of conniving with pro-coup elements.
CHÁVEZ DOES NOT WANT THE RECALL
It is elementary that Chávez and his power entourage build blocs vs. the recall. For some analysts it should not be discarded for the final resource to be an increment of conflict and violence. This would explain Chávez’s aggressiveness vs. the opposition; his fixation on events of April 2002; the obsessive charge that his adversaries are plotting a coup; the provocation implied in his guiding his project of turning the country into a sort of province conquered by Fidel Castro. Likewise, the effort of publicizing the presence of thousands of Cuban officials in many varied functions: political intelligence; ideological indoctrination; training of armed groups; service by medical personnel without having to legally validate their profession; a strange literacy program, etc.
In the apparent strategy to stimulate conflict and violence, the shameless transformation of the Armed Forces into a Praetorian Guard for the Comandante and the always-confused positions dealing with the Colombian domestic conflict are interwoven. Relationships with the neighboring country continue to deteriorate. In the program of reinsertion of guerrillas into civilian life, Colombian authorities have received very precise testimony on the cooperation received from Venezuela for these irregulars.
Everything can be expected from Chávez to avoid the recall. In Venezuela Today of June 30th., 2003, poll results from May were analyzed. Those from June are even more convincing: they allow the evaluation of the effects of the governmental campaign to transfer the responsibility for economic and social problems to the “oil coup”, and a very well elaborated psychological war –from the publicity standpoint- to demoralize opposition forces.
In the June polls, the majority grows in all socioeconomic sectors, who would take out Chávez through a recall. The supposed split in the opposition between high, middle and low classes loses ground. The group of “neutrals” sensitive to official propaganda (neither supporters nor adversaries) would vote in favor of a recall. The “Chavista” numbers decline while the “Anti-Chavistas” hold their own. All surveyed –including Chavistas- in large numbers agree on the worsening of the personal and familiar economic situation. Between 70 and 80 % agree that the government has done little or nothing to deal with problems of insecurity, corruption, unemployment and inflation. 70% has little or no confidence in the President’s ability to effectively run the country during his tenure. 85% disagrees with the suspension of the recall. Of course, the “neutrals” and an important segment of “Chavistas” share this view as well.
THE CHALLENGES OF THE OPPOSITION
As we write this newsletter, the opposition yet has 35 days to request the recall. It is the story of the pastor who did not chime the church’s bells to tell the people of the arrival of the Bishop, because evildoers had stolen the bells. In the Venezuelan case, the signature of voters required to request the recall before the National Electoral Council (NEC) have been collected, but said body has yet to be designated by the National Assembly (NA).
The opposition is accused of negligence in the election of the NEC. The regime has been losing followers in the NA and opposition votes are indispensable to designate the new NE. It is said that deputies from historic parties have no interest or fear the results of the recall. It may be true. It is also true that the regime demands to have a majority in the NEC. This is the argument in the NA debates and in public statements. The majority Chávez hopes for is that of his yespeople. If this happens, there will be an NEC but there will not be a recall.
While in the NA months have gone by evading the designation of the NEC, within this one, with an official majority enough time may pass to cancel the recall, because if August 2004 comes around –even if the YES vote wins- it would befall on the Vice President chosen by Chávez to rule until 2006-. Chávez, in power, would run again. Vice President Rangel has said that the government rules out the recall and is getting ready for elections of governors and mayors scheduled for he coming year as their terms come to an end. From our perspective, it is not that the government rules out, but rather that it has the firm purpose of avoiding the recall.
The official counteroffer is to be noted: to wait for the gubernatorial and mayoral elections next year. Rangel is the political brain of the regime as well as the official with the least credibility. However, possibly he’s telling a half truth. The behavior of the regime during the past few months gives that impression. The strict exchange controls allows it to gather hard currency which at year’s end may add up to 20 billion dollars for the petty cash of the electoral campaign directed by an NEC subservient to Chávez, with the military and armed civilian brigades intimidating voters.
INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS ARE THE KEY
Because the government has not been able to refuse the presence of foreign observers, it is obliged to keep appearances of a democratic regime. Hence, the thesis of general elections as an alternative to the recall has gained strength. Officialdom can do it by means of a presidential initiative for a constitutional amendment. The amendment ought to be subject of a referendum within 30 days. Before this possibility, the opposition would have to request a negative vote alleging constitutional fraud or it could propose its old thesis of ballotage linking it to the recall.
The Democratic Coordinating Group, with the problems endemic to a confederation of social and economic groups, attempts to build unity within diversity. This week, a global accord should be reached to coordinate the job of organization, motivation and mobilization towards the recall. It includes a commitment to a program of government of the team replacing Chávez and a method to select the opposition candidate for the presidential election following the recall.
Within the week there will be a public presentation of the project –in the making for long months- by a group of experts of the main universities and specialized institutions in social and economic studies.
An important dimension is that the opposition project proposes a minimal emergency plan for a national unity government during the transition (2004-2006) and economic policies –short, medium and long term- putting together a stabilization program with a growth drive based in the energy sector. The main parameters of this plan are inspired in the advise of prominent people in Chilean politics leaders in the process of transition in that country and in following governments of National Consensus. The opposition is getting ready, not only to defeat Chávez, but to rebuild the Republic starting with governments following the terrible experience of the Bolivarian Revolution.
DEMOCRACIA Y DESARROLLO
Presidente: Pedro Pablo Aguilar
P.O. Box International 02-5225
Miami, FL 33102-522