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Chavez losing his hold on power

June 26, 2011

By Daniel Duquenal
Columnist
Troy Media

CARACAS, Venezuela, June 26, 2011/ Troy Media/ – No matter what the outcome of the mysterious disease inflicting Hugo Chavez is, it is fair to say that his hold over his followers has weakened.

His followers have discovered that Chavez - president of Venezuela since 1999 – cares little about their country, having no qualms to ruling it from Havana as if it were a mere colonial outpost of the Cuban Empire. More damaging, they are shocked that their beloved leader is a mere mortal after all, that he might not be there forever to make sure they can keep profiting from the regime.

Mystery absence now in its third week

Chavez’ mismanagement of the whole situation harks back cold war secretiveness in the era of Twitter. With his mysterious absence now in its third week, rumors are swirling around Venezuela that a succession war has begun within the chavismo – a left-wing ideology based on Chavez’ populist credo – movement.

In the meantime, the opposition is demanding that the law be respected, namely that Chavez appoint an interim president while he is recovering. Chavez’ ego, however, cannot tolerate such a sharing of power, even if temporary; it would, after all, establish the fact that he is not indispensable, something politically forbidden for someone aspiring to be president for life.

And yet all his actions, or lack of them, underline his new vulnerability.

First, there was the “old knee injury” which incapacitated Chavez so much that, for the first time in years, he was incapable of continuing his abusive TV appearances.

Then it was a mysterious pelvic abscess surgery in early June, treated in Havana. Last Thursday, however, the Wall Street Journal published an article – which has yet to be denied – stating that the president was being treated for prostate cancer. There are persistent rumors of metastasis, which cannot be ignored.

To make matters worse, problems plaguing Venezuela even before Chavez got sick have been exacerbated by the ineptitude of the ministers he left in charge.

First there was the failure of his proposal to build two million homes and give them for nearly free to his supporters. To prove its success, at least 50,000 new units would have to be made available by June 30. It isn’t going to happen. Chavez has instead outlawed private property, letting tenants simply take possession of the rental properties in which they live. For all practical purposes, this has killed any likelihood of any new private sector housing construction.

Second, the electricity crisis of 2009 and 2010, which we had been told with great fanfare was over, came back with a vengeance, producing major blackouts in the middle of a heat wave. The latest crisis forced the government to implement an even more repressive rationing scheme than the previous one which had failed. As the latest renewed electricity crisis comes while all Venezuela’s dams are at full capacity, the crisis can only be attributed to the regime’s mismanagement of the sector. It is obvious that Venezuela’s very weak economic recovery – along with the free-housing program – is now all but dead.

Third, the horrendous conditions of Venezuela’s prisons provoked a major revolt among the inmates who were able to hold off the National Guard and Army for one week. Venezuelan jails are the most violent in the Americas: around 500 prisoners are murdered every year inside its prisons. Prisons are weapons infested, and drug trafficking and a prosperous industry of ransoming and prostitution, controlled through wireless phones, are rampant. This can only be explained by the extreme corruption of the National Guard and the refusal by the regime to build more jails to house an already dangerously overcrowded prison population that has grown more than two fold.

Regime imploding

The regime promises that Chavez will be back for the bicentennial of July 5th. As there is also a major summit in Margarita Island the following day, Chavez can no longer postpone his public return. If he does, he will need to account for his absence.

But neither option will do him any good at this point. The regime is imploding, which will result either in its demise or a new radicalization and internal purges as the only way to hold to power. As the French say we might be entering a fin de règne . . . or worse.

Due to the situation in Venezuela, Daniel Duquenal is a pseudonym. A former scientist now living in the Venezuelan countryside managing his small family business, Daniel edits a very popular blog called Venezuela News and Views.

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