Novas mensagens, análises etc. irão se concentrar a partir de agora em interceptor.
O presente blog, Geografia Conservadora servirá mais como arquivo e registro de rascunhos.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Venezuela: The Opposition's Last Hurrah?

A mass march planned for May 19 in support of Venezuelan TV station Radio Caracas Television, whose broadcast license is about to be suspended by the Venezuelan government, will show the extent to which popular opposition to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is mounting. The timing could be bad for Chavez, who is controversially trying to consolidate his supporters into a united socialist party. On the other hand, if the opposition rises up, it likely will not have much room to move. In fact, this could be the last great anti-Chavez demonstration in Caracas -- until things start getting really bad.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is likely to proceed with plans not to renew the public broadcasting license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), one of Venezuela's main national TV stations, when it expires May 27, in retaliation for RCTV's support of an attempted coup in 2002. A large march supporting RCTV is scheduled for May 19 in Caracas. Chavez seems unfazed by accusations that he is attacking freedom of the press, but the RCTV issue could alienate more of his moderate supporters at a delicate time. He is in the throes of trying to force many of the parties supporting him into a single Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela -- a process he began in December 2006. If shutting down RCTV results in massive protests, some parties and political leaders could be persuaded to refuse to join the single party. However, even sizeable resistance to the unified party might not make much of a difference because Chavez's position is so strong; his Movement for a Fifth Republic party held 114 of the 167 seats in the legislature before the drive for a united party even got under way -- which itself hardly matters since the legislature has given Chavez the power to rule by decree.
Polls have shown that opposition to closing down RCTV runs in the 70 percent range, so a large turnout at the march is possible. Such a turnout has next to no chance of changing Chavez's decision on RCTV, but it could inspire opposition or, at the very least, suspicion of his united party. Indeed, the turnout at the May 19 protest will be a good indicator of the degree to which opposition to Chavez is mounting.

Oscar Perez, the leader of opposition group National Resistance Command, says the May 19 protest will be the "mother of all marches." The march is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. local time at four distinct points in Caracas: Parque Cristal, Plaza Venezuela, Distribuidor Santa Fe and Santa Monica. Groups will march from these meeting points to Francisco de Miranda Avenue in Chacaito, in downtown Caracas. Smaller protests are planned for before and after the march, and another sizeable march -- in total silence -- is being planned for May 26, the day before RCTV's license expires. The May 19 protest is likely the most important; if it draws a large group -- in the high tens of thousands -- it could catalyze a significant movement and build momentum for the silent protest a week later.The timing of these protests is crucial. A registration drive for individuals to join the new United Socialist Party of Venezuela is taking place on six subsequent Sundays -- a process of which Venezuela is right in the middle. Both major protests take place on Saturdays, and could significantly drive down party registration turnout the following days. This, in turn, could be seen as a sign to political groups wondering whether to join the united party. Fifteen political parties have already agreed to join. Those holding out for more time -- Podemos, the Communist Party of Venezuela and Fatherland for All -- hold a few seats in the legislature, but represent the only likely base for a popular opposition resurgence that would capture moderate votes rather than the votes of those who have long opposed Chavez.

Of course, even a sizeable mass movement at the May 19 protest could prove anticlimactic. Whether Venezuela's Supreme Court approves a request filed May 16 by RCTV workers to prevent Chavez from taking the station off the air, and whether party registration numbers plummet on the Sundays following the Saturday protests, Chavez will almost certainly still shut down RCTV. And once the station is silent, the opposition will have few clear courses of action.

Chavez has easily defeated opposition to all of his controversial moves thus far. And now, with the RCTV case serving as a warning to opposition journalists, the already poorly organized anti-Chavez movement likely cannot become any stronger. RCTV's two main competitors, Venevision and Televen, were also opposed to Chavez leading up to the 2002 coup, but their criticism has been much more muted since Chavez won a 2004 recall referendum. And in RCTV's place, Chavez plans to launch a new state socialist TV station: Fundacion Televisora Venezolana Social (Teves).This means that, rather than beginning a new wave of organized opposition to Chavez, the coming protests could be the opposition's last hurrah -- at least for quite some time.Chavez knows he is in a position of strength, so he is not likely to overtly crack down on the upcoming demonstrations. In the long run, however, Venezuela is likely headed for the kind of mass social unrest no government can withstand without brutal repression. This is because while Chavez props his government up with oil revenues and ideology, he is rapidly dismantling the very government and market institutions that could give Venezuelans a chance at maintaining a decent standard of living when oil prices finally fall. That time, however, remains months -- possibly years -- away.

(By apud A.B.)

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