Saturday, April 20, 2013

Raul Castro Buys Time

Raul Castro Buys Time / Ivan Garcia
Posted on April 19, 2013

On Sunday, April 14, at 11:45 PM Havana time, the president of the
National Electoral Council, Tibisay Lucena, delared Nicolas Maduro, the
candidate of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the winner
of the presidential election. More than a few bottles of champagne and
Russian vodka were uncorked by Cuban government ministers and military
businessmen in a relaxed and familial atmosphere.

The close victory by Chavez' hand-picked successor — 50.66% of the vote
compared to Capriles' 49.07% — was the culmination of a political
campaign orchestrated in large part from Havana.

While the Bolivarian comandante lay dying in CIMEQ, a large hospital
west of the city, the Castro brothers offered their services as
political intermediaries to the bereaved Chávez cabinet. It was in the
Cuban capital that a plan was cooked up and a timetable for succession
was worked out. Behind the scenes a script was being written.

Nicolás Maduro rehearsed the score beforehand. The regime did not want
any surprises. It was a matter of life and death. Of national security.

Egos, ambitions for power and rivalries among red-shirted comrades had
to be put aside. An agreement was patched together in the name of Chávez
and Latin American unity.

If they lost the election, twenty-first century socialism would die of
starvation. It would deal a death blow to the ALBA trade alliance, whose
members included Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Cuba.

Without Chávez' policies of providing oil at cut-rate prices,
multi-million dollar loans and subsidies for Latin American social
projects, the continent-wide revolution's days would be numbered.

Maduro's mission is to continue Chávez' social policies in Venezuela and
to follow the moronic strategies of the lieutenant colonel from Barinas,
as well as his confrontational and anti-American rhetoric in the name of
Latin America's insurgents.

Maduro is being asked to be a clone of Chávez. It is all a symbolic
drama staged to reinforce pro-Chávez sentiment among the hill dwellers.

There is a little of bit of everything in the cocktail shaker. Allusions
to Christ. Recalling the Bolivarian leader through folk songs and hymns
interpreted in his voice. And mobilizing all the beneficiaries of the
PSUV's social policies to remind them whom they should vote for on April 14.

According to forecasts by the Cuban government, Maduro should have won
by a wide margin, with an overwhelming landslide of 15% to 18%

Maduro himself talked about getting at least ten million votes. But as
the days wore on and the country experienced blackouts, urban violence
and shortages, many Venezuelans began to suspect that they were being
led into a trap.

A difference of less than 235,000 votes in Maduro's favor can be read in
different ways. Capriles improved his standing, gaining a million more
votes than he did on October 7, 2012. And at only 40 years of age, he is
now a real threat to the ruling party.

During the fourteen years of Chávez' rule no opposition candidate gained
as many votes. Maduro must know that, if he keeps up the polarizing
rhetoric and tries to govern only for the benefit of his supporters,
half the adults in Venezuela will not feel comfortable about it.

The former bus driver and trade union official from Caracas could choose
to make a 180 degree turn and govern for all the people in the manner of
former Brazilian president Lula da Silva. If he leads the nation in an
inclusive, modern and coherent manner, he could escape from under the
shadows of his ideological father. He could even outshine him.

The county's internal situation presents a serious test. There are 7.2
million people who do not support the pro-Chávez agenda. With Hugo
Chávez' corpse growing cold, and the economic and social situation in
Venezuela continuing on its precarious course, Maduro has no other
choice but to listen to all political opinions.

The opposition has been strengthened. If they devise effective
strategies, they could attract more supporters. Chavismo could see
several hundred thousand people desert if Maduro does not govern with
complete independence.

It has been a Pyrrhic victory. It is possible to discern a maze of
confrontations. The atmosphere could keep heating up. Maduro is
obligated to govern for the good of all Venezuelans and to develop the
country. It would be a big mistake if he continued his predecessor's
practice of bleeding the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, to provide
bonuses to other countries on the continent.

Cuba's autocrats know that the alarm bells from Caracas could sound at
any moment. Raul Castro will "slowly but steadily" continue with his
tepid economic reforms. Nicolás Maduro's victory has provided a burst of
political oxygen. It has bought time. What no one knows is how much.

Iván García

17 April 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment