[Writing for Counterpunch, George Ciccariello-Maher argues that weeks and months of straightforward campaign rhetoric and poll results has given way to a more sinister tone, as the discussion has shifted away from the voting process on December 3rd and toward what will be done on December 4th. --Ed]
Plans B, C and D
Contingency and Counter-Contingency in Venezuela
By George Ciccariello-Maher - CounterPunch
November 28, 2006
Anyone paying attention to the Venezuelan press in recent weeks will not be able to ignore a shift in the tenor of the electoral campaign. Weeks and months of straightforward campaign rhetoric and poll results has given way to a more sinister tone, as the discussion has shifted away from the voting process on December 3rd and toward what will be done on December 4th. This shift originates in the rhetoric of an increasingly-desperate opposition which hopes to have its cake and eat it too, that is, to simultaneously contest elections and discredit the process. But this rhetoric has found its echo of resistance in similar plans for "the day after" by different sectors of the Bolivarian Revolution: efforts to organize themselves on the local level to defend against attacks on Venezuelan sovereignty.
After much uncertainty, it now seems that-despite running consistently 20-30% behind Chávez in the polls-opposition candidate Manuel Rosales will not be pulling out of the election. And this despite the fact that sectors of the opposition like the Acción Democrática Party (AD) and Antonio Ledezma's Alianza Bravo Pueblo have still refused to support the process and are calling for abstention. While the Rosales campaign has not denied the claims of such groups, and while he can be heard to echo the claims of abstentionists that the "electoral conditions are insufficient," and that the fingerprint machines used in the voting process have "no function except to frighten the electorate," Rosales has not been sufficiently consistent with this theme to justify withdrawing from the elections. Given his rhetoric, quite simply, withdrawing would be not be a credible decision: it's too late for that.
But unfortunately, this doesn't mean that the opposition will be passively accepting their electoral defeat on December 3rd. Instead, rather than complaining of electoral conditions beforehand and talking the abstentionist talk, the opposition is rallying around the slogan of "defend the vote." This vague slogan has some clear consequences, as became clear when opposition ideologue Rafael Poleo appeared recently on Globovisión. Poleo, who has links to the Bush clan and the CIA, who was thoroughly implicated in the April 2002 coup, and whose daughter has been directly implicated in the assassination of Danilo Anderson, the judge whose job it was to collect evidence against the coup-plotters, laid out the strategy of the radical opposition in the clearest of terms on November 6th: "On the 3rd, it is up to the citizens to align themselves with the opposition, they need to go and vote. On the 4th, it's up to Manuel Rosales to lead the protests against the fraud that has been set up. And on the 5th, it's up to the Armed Forces to decide if it will continue forcing those in the Venezuelan opposition to put up with a shameful regime."
According to Poleo, Rosales could be the most important Venezuelan of the 21st century "if he does what he needs to do." The Electoral Committee (CNE) "will announce the victory of Hugo Chávez, regardless of what the numbers say," and "at 6am on the 4th, the streets will fill with people decrying fraud, and then we will see the true size of Rosales." Revealingly, Poleo declares that "that day after, the 4th, will be even more important than December 3rdOn the 4th, it's up to the people to do what the Ukranians did, to carry out an 'Orange Revolution,' to hurl themselves onto the streets, because the fraud has already been arranged, they already have the numbers ready." The Chavistas will not abandon power for the simple reason that "they are Nazis." A coup attempt is in the works, and it has been publicly announced beforehand (all claims of a lack of press freedom in Venezuela thereby proven false).
While Poleo seems uncertain about which path Rosales will choose, the ground is already being laid for his participation in this coup attempt. Hence, Rosales has been clearly evasive when faced with questions about his recognition of the election results: when Chávez publicly agreed to respect the results of the election and challenged his opponent to do the same, the response from Rosales echoing the "democratic" doublespeak of the Northern superpower. Rosales made the very question sound silly: Venezuela is, according to Rosales, the "only country on earth" in which there would even exist a doubt regarding the recognition of elections, but despite this the opposition candidate would not agree to accept these results without the significant caveat that said results must be fair. In terms of the second step of the plan-appeals to the military-Rosales even beat Poleo to the punch, openly calling on November 5th for a meeting with the military high command, a request which was flatly denied by Minster of Defense General Raúl Baduel on the basis that such a meeting would constitute an unconstitutional intervention of the military into the electoral process.
In addition, Nestor González González, the baldheaded military leader of the April 2002 coup, has crawled out of his hole to release an audiotape calling for the same sequence of events. While the opposition press wouldn't touch this tape with a ten-foot pole, the rhetoric is the same as that of Poleo: defending the vote, and thereby defending "civil society." As Mario Silva, the fiery host of Chavista evening program La Hojilla makes clear, talk of civil society operates here as a subsititute for talk of the pueblo, the people, for the simple reason that "they don't have a people." Silva's response: "They shall not pass," and if the opposition attempts to spread destabilization and violent blockades known as guarimbas outward from their wealthy refuge, "they won't get out of the Eastern part of the capital."
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