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Chavismo in winter

Nicolas Maduro wife Cilia Flores
Nicolás Maduro and his wife, Cilia Flores

As we’ve discussed recently, the people of Venezuela, after years of disastrous chavista socialism – which sent the country’s democracy, economy, and public order into a tailspin – finally said “¡Basta!” on November 6 and, by a resounding margin, voted in an opposition-majority parliament. (“This time,” noted one observer, Harper’s writer Henry Miller, popular discontent was so great, that no amount of ballot box stuffing was going to give [the ruling party] a victory.”) The new parliament will be seated tomorrow.

Hugo Chávez

The reprehensible Maduro, who inherited the mantle of chavismo from its founder, the late Hugo Chávez, has none of his predecessor’s personal magnetism but is every bit as much a corrupt gangster, an enemy of freedom, and an economic illiterate. Facing the election of an unfriendly parliament, he was anything but subtle: “I swear,” he declared publicly, “that while I am alive, and under no circumstances would I surrender our revolution. Let’s be prepared for blood and massacre, and to defend our homeland and to win no matter how, and no matter at what cost.”

Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López

Prior to the election, Maduro vowed that in case of a loss by his party, he would “govern with the people in a civilian-military alliance – in other words, set aside the election results and use the armed forces to maintain his grip on power. Later, he made the same promise in somewhat different words, saying that if the vote didn’t go his way, “We would defend the revolution. We wouldn’t surrender and the revolution would move into a new phase.”

Note the remarkable Orwellian language, which is fully worthy of Stalin: Maduro would “govern with the people” by ignoring the results of a vote by the people. The revolution would enter “a new phase” – in the same way that Poland entered “a new phase” in September 1939 when the Wehrmacht and Red Army brutally divvied it up, and in the same way that Czechoslovakia entered “a new phase” in August 1968 when Soviet tanks rolled into Prague. Fortunately, Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino López and his fellow military leaders proved to be more devoted to democracy than Maduro is, refusing to back up his threat and promising to ensure that the will of the electorate would be respected.

Diosdado Cabello

Not that Maduro has given up. One of his schemes for hanging on to power has been implemented by his steadfast flunky Diosdado (“The Godfather”) Cabello, president of the National Assembly (where, as we’ve seen, he ordered the beating of opposition leaders), drug-trafficking kingpin, and honcho of the paramilitary “Bolivarian Circles.” Cabello, on Maduro’s orders, put together a new, extra-constitutional government body – a so-called “communal parliament” to which Maduro plans to try to transfer power from the real parliament. The “communal parliament” has already been installed in the building where the National Assembly has traditionally met.

Juan García Toussaint

Cabello has a long track record as a exceedingly loyal henchman for Chávez and, now, Maduro. When Padrino made it clear that he wouldn’t back up Maduro’s efforts to give the voters the finger, Cabello threatened to remove him from his cabinet post and launch an investigation of his conduct in office – which, in chavista country, amounts to a less than subtle threat to throw Padrino in the clink –and to replace him with Juan García Toussaint, a pal of his who’s also apparently involved in the narcotics biz. Fortunately, the military stood solidly behind Padrino, obliging Maduro and his lackey to back off.

On December 23, the lame-duck chavista majority in the National Assembly pushed through 13 new appointments to Venezuela’s highest court, ensuring, in the words of the Washington Post, “that no other justices are seated for years to come.” Some Maduro-ites are hoping to get this newly packed court to rule the opposition’s election victory invalid. In a December 23 editorial, the Washington Post warned that Maduro’s and Cabello’s underhanded shenanigans could lead to further violence in Venezuela.

But Cabello’s only the first of several useful Venezuelan stooges we need to catch up on in the wake of the November 6 elections. Tune in tomorrow for another serving of pond scum, chavista style. 

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