Thursday, June 02, 2005

The check is in the mail 

Yesterday it was speculated that Maria Machado went to meet Bush to pick up a check for her organization Sumate. Irrespective of when the actual checks get handed out today we have confirmation that indeed the U.S. government intends to give Sumate even more money.

Yesterday a number of U.S. congress people were visiting with their counterparts at the Venezuelan National Assembly. The ostensible purpose of the meeting was to discuss drugs. However, Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, instead took the opportunity to say that he thought that freedoms were threatened in Venezuela, that he didn’t understand why Maria Machado was being prosecuted , and that the U.S. government planned to give Sumate even more money than they already have. So Machado hit the trifecta, she got a visa to go to the U.S. (something not easy to get if you support Chavez, Chavez himself was denied one), she got to meet with Bush (ok, so that is nothing to brag about but she got to see the inside of the White House), and she gets a check.

And what are U.S. taxpayers getting for their money? They get the services of someone who thinks its fine just to abolish any government you happen not to like ( see below ), that clearly fabricated electoral information ( exit polls, data analysis , etc), but that will sit on Bush’s lap and say bad things about people he and the U.S. government don’t like.

Another note on this subject. Some have speculated that Bush inviting her to the White House may have been a signal that the U.S. wanted to see her as the opposition’s unity candidate to run against Chavez in 2006 similar to the U.S. getting the Nicaraguan opposition to line up behind Violetta Chamorra in early 90s. While possible, I think this is unlikely. The U.S. State Department is still does have some grip on reality (ok, when you look at Iraq its hard to believe that but I think its true) and realizes that the elections of 2006 are all but a forgone conclusion. The price of oil is high, the Venezuelan economy is booming, and Chavez is going through the roof in the polls. Anyone who runs against him is likely to wind up a sacrificial lamb.

Further, Machado is very much identified with the eastern Caracas elite and that would not help her or the opposition in any election. It would be hard for her to campaign in the poorer areas as her fine clothes and jewelry would clash with the squalor.

Another irony if this were the case is that the opposition , and in particular Machado and Sumate, has been crying that there aren’t fair elections in Venezuela. So if the elections aren’t fair why would you be a candidate in them. Quite a conundrum. Actually, the whole opposition has been caught in this pickle as they don’t want to give up the few positions they can win so they have to participate in the elections meaning that in spite of their claims of fraud they go ahead an participate anyways. Up to this point I thought a likely strategy that the U.S. would push is to have the opposition not participate in elections at all claiming they were rigged and try to delegitimize Chavez in that way. And I still think that strategy is more likely than trying to run a sure loser like Machado.

Lastly, if they intended for her to be some sort of unity candidate they are a little late as Primero Justicia already jumped into the game. Other opposition parties such as A.D. also seem inclined to field their own candidate. So if a unity candidate was their intent I’m afraid the horse is already out of the barn.

Truthfully, I don’t think this represents anything more than the U.S. government trying to be a thorn in the side of the Venezuelan government (which is all they can do at this point), continue their propaganda offensive against Chavez, and push some peoples buttons (which they succeeded in). And as far as Machado goes I hope she enjoyed the trip and the check made it worthwhile as she likely has tough days ahead. After all, it is not who is smiling today who counts but who is smiling the day after the elections.


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