Chavez. Venezuela is on the Threshold of New Tests By Nil NIKANDROV

21 December 2012 — Strategic Culture Foundation

We cannot yet have complete confidence in a successful outcome of the fourth operation, which Hugo Chavez has undergone. Cuban oncologists and surgeons are doing their best to suppress the disease, and the metastases which appear despite the grueling sessions of chemotherapy. Chavez is optimistic, but this time, on December 9, this year, before flying to Havana, he did not exclude the possibility of his standing down early from the presidency, and he named his successor … Addressing the people and his supporters, Chavez said: «You must vote for Nicholas Maduro if you have to vote in a new election, if suddenly something happens that prevents me from performing my duties».

The issue of Chavez succession is constantly debated. Mostly the campaigns are initiated by the opposition and pro-American media, and sometimes by «moderate Chavistas» who believe in a «Bolivarian revolution without Chavez». Allegedly, his radicalism, his attraction to Marxist ideology, desire to use Soviet and Cuban experiences (literacy, free health care, education, mass housing construction), and confrontational approach to relations with the United States (in response to provocation) do not meet the requirements of the modern era. And that is why Venezuela must be led by a politician who is able to enter into serious compromises with political opponents at home and abroad. Particular attention should be paid to a dialogue with Washington, because the normalization of political life in Venezuela is largely dependent on the willingness to «compromise». 

Among the contenders to succeed Chavez from his inner circle, the one most often named is his older brother Adam (governor of Barinas State, a committed Marxist, and one of the ideologists of the Bolivarian revolution.) The name Diosdado Cabello is also often mentioned (President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, and a reliable ally of Chavez since studying at the military academy) and Nicolas Maduro, who holds the combined posts of Minister of Foreign Affairs (September 2006) and Vice President (since October 2012). It is now obvious that Chavez made his choice long ago and deliberately promoted Maduro, a former trade unionist, Bolivarian and socialist, on the steps of his political career. Remember if you will Maduro`s appearances on national television in 2002-2005, when he exposed the hard facts about subversive CIA activities and the existence of a «fifth column» in Venezuela. This was dangerous. In just one example, Prosecutor Danilo Anderson, who led the investigation into the far-right plot in April 2002, was killed by a bomb planted in his car. Threats have been repeatedly made against Maduro.

The Venezuelan politician is well known in the international arena. On some occasions, he has represented the country and President Chavez at the UN, in OAS forums and other regional organizations. It is no exaggeration to say that Maduro played a large role as co-author with Chavez in forming the ALBA block, Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Latin America and the UNASUR – the Union of South American Nations. Madura took a direct role in the creation of CELAC – Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. He did a lot to help Venezuela gain entry into MERCOSUR – the South American trade alliance – moving from one capital to another, coordinating and formulating documentation, and overcoming sabotage from extreme right wing politicians in Paraguay and Uruguay. He had to solve many political problems and design a «new oil policy», which is aimed at strengthening the position of Venezuela in the region, and not to the «export of revolution»; this is according to liberal politicians, including those in Russia. In the current phase of the Bolivarian process, Chavez and Maduro paid most attention to its consolidation and constructive dialogue with the opposition, as well as creating favorable foreign political and economic conditions for the development of the country. «We do not impose our views» – say the Bolivarian leaders – “but if someone likes our experience of building a society of social justice, bienvenido, welcome to the ALBA».

The operation in Havana lasted six hours, due to complications and it looks like it will take a long time to restore Chavez to health. Meanwhile gubernatorial elections were held in Venezuela on December 16. Candidates from the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) won in 20 states and 3 states went to the opposition. It is significant that the Bolivarian candidates were successful in the states of Monagas, Nueva Esparta, Merida and Zulia, which were formerly under the control of the opposition. Especially important was the victory in the oil-producing state of Zulia, which was considered an anti-Chavez stronghold, and a center of separatist activity. American officials called it the «Independent Republic of Zulia» and they regularly visited opposition governors. The U.S. intelligence services have carried out comprehensive measures to turn Zulia in to a «springboard for resistance to the regime». From this state, which borders Colombia, paramilitary groups were sent in to the country to organize acts of sabotage, and to carry out drug trafficking, in support of which (in the case of disclosure) the Venezuelan government would be accused. Now, after the victory of Arias Cardenas, one of the founders of the Bolivarian movement, the conspirators’ actions would come to an end.

The Inauguration of the President should take place on January 10. There is heated debate in Venezuela about whether Chavez will recover by then. Information in the field is constantly coming from an unidentified «former physician» of the president, who lives in Miami, who predicts his «death in the spring of 2013». Simultaneously, the U.S. intelligence services are taking steps to inflate the rivalries in the Bolivarian leadership, and their ideological differences are obvious. There are two main groups: the former military, who tried to seize power by force of arms in February and November 1992. Chavez has never taken his eyes off the military fraternity, and he has facilitated a successful political career for many of his allies, often forgiving them their inconsistency or outright betrayal. Arias Cardenas was his rival in the 2000 presidential election and campaigned with personal and often abusive attacks on Chavez. After a long series of political setbacks Cardenas went on to reconcile with Chavez. He had the opportunity to work in the PSUV leadership, and was the representative of Venezuela to the United Nations.

The second group which supports Chavez is the United Socialist Party, and which is mainly composed of former members of small left-Marxist and left-nationalist parties and movements. Some of the left-wing parties, including the Communists, did not want to dissolve in to the PSUV. In supporting Chavez, they strengthen their own ranks, trying to achieve a greater impact on the political situation in the country. Chavez was disappointed with this approach: «Those movements that do not accept the unification effort will have the right to preserve their abbreviations (political), sphere of action, and symbols, (our) doors will open (for you), but I will go on ahead». There is plenty of conflict within the PSUV. Until recently, attempts to democratize the party and firmly to connect it to the original organizations were met with the resistance of the party bureaucracy. In some cases, promotions to command positions in the PSUV were conducted contrary to the wishes of the grassroots. The «Signals» of the rank and file of the party that a particular nominee was politically unreliable, were ignored. The agents of a «fifth column» are clearly headed for the disintegration of the Party from within.

The military forces are the backbone of the regime. Chavez has done much to strengthen their ideological resistance (a theoretical legacy of Simon Bolivar which he has thoroughly studied), and loyalty to socialist ideas. All Pentagon doctrine has been banished from military regulations, even if the whole form has acquired a different shape. The Venezuelan military is oriented to conduct a defensive (asymmetric) war and considers the major threat of aggression to be from the United States seizing the oil fields. The experiences of the military campaigns of U.S. / NATO in Afghanistan and Iraq have been carefully studied. Plans are underway to conduct traditional guerrilla war against potential aggressors. Even during the time of the Fourth of (bourgeois) republic, it was mostly representatives of the lower social classes that went into the army. Now they dominate the whole structure, from the rank and file to command. To serve in the Bolivarian army is prestigious: the pay is good; there is access to higher (civilian) education, social security for all family members, and scholarships for children’s education abroad.

Chavez is counting on the stabilizing and organizing role of the army in the event of loss of control of the country. For this reason, he turned to the army and the police in his farewell address and called upon them to stand with the people, and to strengthen the unity of all the revolutionary forces. «I say this» said Chavez,» because our enemies and those that hate our country will not rest, never abandon their intrigues to cause strife, and especially in situations such as these. Therefore, what should be our response? Unity, unity and unity once again! «

Two years ago, in Moscow, Chavez took part in the ceremony of laying the cornerstone for the installation of a monument to Simon Bolivar, the liberator of Latin America from Spanish colonial rule. The monument, is a replica of the one standing in the heart of the Venezuelan capital, and was scheduled to be unveiled in late 2011. The disease changed Chavez plans. Let’s hope that in 2013 he will be able to come to Moscow, healthy and full of energy and optimism. It is impossible to imagine the world of modern politics without Chavez. There is no one else like him.

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