In late December, answering questions sent to him by the newspaper El Nacional, the popular, articulate Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López – who’s been in prison since February 2014 for the crime of being, well, a popular, articulate opposition leader – said that the next priority, after the seating of the pro-market, anti-chavista parliament that was elected on November 6, has to be the ousting of the country’s dictatorial honcho Nicolás Maduro.
Maduro’s term doesn’t end until 2019, but López, who was sentenced to a 14-year term and who’s expected to be released by the new parliament (which went into session yesterday) over a promised presidential veto, insisted that some legal way must be found to remove Maduro from office, so that Venezuelan citizens could regain control of their national institutions. “Today,” said López, “the unconstitutionally appointed Supreme Court continues to be hijacked.The Attorney General protects the powerful and in Venezuela the victims who dare to complain are the ones who end up imprisoned.”
It will be interesting to see whether the opposition actually does try to unseat Maduro when it gains control of the legislature. In any case, the president’s opponents already have announced a lengthy agenda, which addresses many of the issues – and useful stooges – we’ve discussed previously on this site. Among their proposals: improvements in legislation that would make possible the repatriation of taxpayer funds stolen by corrupt politicians and their cronies. The corrupt politicians include three pre-Chávez presidents, Luis Herrera Campins, Carlos Andrés Pérez, and Jaime Ramón Lusinchi. Among the chavista crooks they hope to target is Alejandro Andrade, aptly described as “the most emblematic figure of corruption” because of his “accumulation and ostentatious display of a five-billion-dollar fortune.” As we explained last May, Andrade got rich the old-fashioned way: back when he and Chavez were kids, Chávez inadvertently blinded him in one eye during a game of “chapitas”; later, when Chávez became the great caudillo, he installed Andrade in a series of jobs – ultimately head of the national treasury – that enabled him to steal epic amounts of cash by means of a variety of ingenious schemes.
And let’s not forget Rafael Ramírez, the Chávez crony (and, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “soft-spoken son of a Marxist guerrilla”) who last year served briefly as Venezuela’s Foreign Minister. Before that he spent ten years (2004-2014) running the government-owned oil firm, PDVSA, where he commanded his underlings “to vote for Chávez or else” and tweaked the nation’s already corrupt oil racket in such a way as to make it, in the words of one obsever, “rotten to the core.” As we’ve noted, he “ultimately achieved the impossible: bankrupting the state oil firm of one of the world’s leading oil powers.”
Where is he now? Since December 2014 he’s been Venezuela’s man at the UN. In October he reacted with outraged to news of “a series of wide-ranging investigations” by American authorities into his tenure at PDVSA, the idea being to try to find out whether he and various amigos “used PDVSA to loot billions of dollars through kickbacks and other schemes” and “whether PDVSA and its foreign accounts were used for other illegal purposes, including black-market currency schemes and laundering drug money.” It’s an open secret that corruption is hardly a strong enough word to describe what Ramírez was up to at PDVSA, but Ramírez dutifully pulled off the outraged-innocent act, calling the U.S. probe “slander…a mass of lies and manipulation” and (of course) “part of a campaign…against our country, our government and our revolution.”