PANDEMONIUM "OPPOSITION" WATCH
enemies an odd mix.
A word on the Venezuelan "Opposition"
The Chicago Tribune:
Chavez enemies an odd mix
Por: Gary Marx
The Chicago Tribune
Tribune foreign correspondent
December 22, 2002
CARACAS, Venezuela -- One opposition leader is a gruff union boss. Another
is a successful businessman.
There are middle-age housewives campaigning to oust President Hugo Chavez,
along with longtime politicians, right-wing former military officers, good-governance
activists, button-down oil executives and even hard-core communists.
Opposition leaders say the diverse nature of their alliance, which includes
dozens of groups, is its primary strength. But others say such scope has fostered
infighting, muddled their strategy and obscured their ultimate goal.
Almost three weeks into a debilitating national strike, even opposition
officials concede that it is unclear what they would accept to end the months-long
conflict that has split Venezuela and battered its economy.
In public, most opposition leaders are demanding Chavez's resignation, yet
three top leaders said in interviews that they would call off the strike if
he agreed to a referendum on his rule and promised not to punish oil workers
and other participants in the work stoppage.
Reflecting increased tensions, some opposition leaders, fearing a backlash
from angry Venezuelans facing gasoline and other shortages, want the strike
lifted, at least for businesses and workers not involved in the oil industry.
Others say the protest must continue to pressure Chavez into political concessions.
"The opposition seems to be united, but it's not true," said Alfredo Keller,
a pollster and political analyst. "They are only together in their will to
throw out Chavez."
Keller said one indication of the opposition's indecision is that its attacks
have focused on Chavez's political strength--his leadership style--rather
than hammering away on major issues such as his failure to reduce crime and
"It's very difficult for them to get together a common policy," he said.
Dislike has many flavors
Take the housewives, for example. They oppose their country's leader in
part because of efforts to fire recalcitrant school officials, rewrite textbooks
and change the curriculum to better reflect his populist and revolutionary
Many retired military officers scorn Chavez because he has used soldiers
to repair houses, paint apartment buildings and complete other social programs--which
his critics say is politicizing the armed forces.
Oil executives are campaigning to oust him for good because he tried to
pack the state oil company with political allies, while good-government activists
say the president has reneged on his promise to fight corruption and consult
with civic groups before making key appointments.
Even the Bandera Roja, a hard-line Marxist-Leninist party, maintains that
Chavez's populist revolution is not a real revolution at all. The group accuses
him of being a "neo-liberal" sellout, even a fascist, who cannot be entrusted
with implanting communism in the world's fifth-largest oil producing nation.
"He has never been a revolutionary," said Jesus Hermoso, a Bandera Roja
Like many in the opposition, Hermoso described the anti-Chavez movement--which
he said was full of "reactionaries"--as an "alliance of circumstances."
"After Chavez there will come another stage in the fight," he vowed.
Diplomats and other experts say Chavez is mainly to blame for the appearance
of such an oddball alliance. Campaigning on the promise of radical change,
the former army paratrooper swept to the presidency in 1998, blowing out Venezuela's
traditional political parties, which had been discredited as corrupt and
Since then, his popularity has plummeted as he has challenged virtually every
major institution in the country, including the church, the news media and
the state-owned oil company. He made enemies at every turn, and his public
approval rating is about 30 percent, boosted primarily by the poor.
Finger-pointing in strife
In an interview, Chavez laid his political troubles on the opposition-controlled
news media and the nation's "elites," who he claimed were desperately trying
to cling to power in the face of his efforts to reshape Venezuela into a more
"They can put together hundreds of thousands. We, in these last few days,
we have had millions of people mobilizing across the country," Chavez told
four U.S. newspapers. "We have more force in the street than they have."
Opposition leaders beg to differ, asserting that the embattled president,
who was ousted in a brief coup in April, is on the ropes as the oil industry
founders and the government prepares to dip into its currency reserves to
buy food and gas to blunt shortages.
They point to Friday's outpouring of hundreds of thousands of whistle-blowing
marchers who took to the streets to again demand Chavez's resignation. A pro-Chavez
demonstration attracted 10,000 people. There were no clashes.
Formed three months after the failed coup, the opposition alliance the
Democratic Coordinator was forged from 18 political parties along with dozens
of non-governmental organizations, business, labor and civic groups that
At any opposition march, onlookers can see yuppie executives riding brand-new
BMW motorcycles, bleached-blond punks in baggy trousers, scruffy Bandera
Roja members hoisting their trademark red flag and a group of well-manicured
housewives led by Maeca Lopez-Mendez.
"He is trying to pull our families apart through the educational system,
and, besides that, give our kids communist instruction," said Lopez-Mendez,
who leads a group called Women for Liberty.
Antonio Ledezma, an opposition leader, acknowledged that reaching consensus
is difficult but said that members had shelved their ideological and political
differences in the quest to oust Chavez. Talk of future policies is limited
to vague niceties, such as healing class divisions, depoliticizing the military
and improving the economy.
"In a marriage of two where there are quarrels, imagine a polychromatic movement
where each one has a manner of thinking and a distinct manner of resolving
the country's problems," said Ledezma, a veteran politician. "But the interests
of Venezuela have taken precedence."
Nowhere is the opposition's loose and quirky nature more apparent than in
its nightly news conference, when the alliance's three major stars pronounce
that day's successes before a national television audience--and inevitably
extend the strike another day.
Speaking first is Carlos Ortega, a longtime union boss and former oil worker
who concedes that he has picked fights with nearly every Venezuelan president
in the past decade.
Next comes Carlos Fernandez, the son of Spanish immigrants who runs a construction,
transportation and cement conglomerate and heads the country's most powerful
A new member is Juan Fernandez, a dissident oil executive and budding politician,
whose presence indicates the ascendancy of the oil workers in the opposition
Ortega, who may be the alliance's most recognized figure, acknowledged that
it is strange for union and business leaders to be battling together toward
a common goal. He said it may be Chavez's only lasting accomplishment in
"Chavez has succeeded in uniting all of civil society, the entire world,"
Copyright © 2002, Chicago Tribune
A word on the Venezuelan "Opposition"
Por: Jutta Schmitt
there is something very, very important we
have to take into consideration when talking about the Venezuelan "opposition".
Venezuela, at this point of its modern, democratic history, does not
have a genuine, political and democratic opposition, reason for which
I always put this term in quotation marks. The old, corrupt leadership of
the country's Trade Union Central "CTV" under Carlos Ortega, discredited
amongst most of the Venezuelan workers, has, in tight agreement and cooperation
not only with the president of the Employers Federation FEDECAMARAS, but
also with the upper management of the State's oil industry PDVSA, as well
as with the military leaders of last April's failed coup d'état -
who were absolved by a scandalous sentence of bribed Venezuelan Supreme
Court magistrates - as well as in unison and with the active support of
Venezuela's commercial TV stations and printed media, been canalizing the
discontent of all those, who for one reason or the other are in disagreement
with the government of Hugo Chávez and who, in the total absence
of a genuine, political opposition, have joined this antidemocratic and
outright fascist movement, that is hellbent to overthrow the democratically
elected government by all means available - being supported in its antidemocratic
goals from abroad, diplomatically and financially.
This kind of "opposition" has a pseudo-political
one-point-only agenda: the ousting of president Chávez by all means,
and that's about it. There is not even a minimum programme of what could
be called an alternative, political agenda countering the government's political
and economic programme for the nation, and worse even, this "opposition"
does not have political speakers, neither does it have a minimum consensus
(other than ousting the president) for a common, political platform, nor
credible politicians, and in the meantime there is not even a single spark
of democratic attitude left anymore. I have not seen one, single "politician"
of all those political splinter groups that make up the so-called Coordinadora
Democrática ("democratic coordination"), who would have had the decency
and fundamentally democratic stand to publicly distance him/herself
or their fraction from the openly undemocratic, putschist objectives and
means pushed forward by the spearheads of another edition of past April's
coup d'état: Trade Union Central, Employers Federation, big Oil Business
Management and putschist military leaders. No one of the "political leaders"
of this mistakenly called "opposition", of this cynically called "Democractic
Coordination", has publicly spoken out in favour of democracy and the constitution
- absolutely nobody.
The discourse held at their rallies with all
those fatally mislead "opposition" supporters - perhaps and in the best
case victims of the insane, incessant media campaign - is an open
discourse of contempt, hate, racism, ridicule and violence directed
against a democratically elected government, and does not posess any genuine,
political content whatsoever!!
This "opposition", obsessed with regaining
political power, goes as far in their total absence of goals and programmes
as to hope for and actively promote a foreign intervention in Venezuela
- foreign intervention the whole, ancient political caste of this country
or "ancién regime", that have plundered this nation's resources for
the past 40 years, and who have been categorically and democratically destituted
in the 1999 elections, aspires may finally restore them in their old position.
This is, what has yet to be analysed and reflected
by the ineffable, international mass disinformation media.