Monday, March 27, 2006

There are no independent powers in Venezuela? 

Given that the Venezuelan opposition hasn't gotten anywhere by claiming that Chavez is a dictator, because he keeps winning election after election, they have decided to switch gears. Now they claim that the problem is that Chavez himself runs and controls absolutely everything in Venezuela. Presumably every last decision is made by Chavez, or at least approved by him. Personally, I have always been a little skeptical of that given that even if there were 72 hours in a day I don't think he'd have enough time. Nevertheless, that is what the opposition has constantly told anyone willing to listen. And a significant number of people, including some foreign journalists, have bought into it.

Today though something happened that would seem to be a little at odds with the notion that Chavez controls everything. The Venezuelan Supreme Court lifted an injunction against a prior court order being enforced and now a Miri Pili Hernandez is not only being forced from her job, she can't hold any other government job, not even as dog catcher in El Tigre. Ms. Hernandez had previously been found guilty of assisting in the misappropriation of funds in the Caracas government and the punishment was to be, in addition to a fine,being barred from holding any government job. She had initially appealed that ruling on the grounds that she held an important position and it would be highly detrimental to the governments interests for her to be forced out. Initially the Supreme Court sided with her and let her keep her job but upon further appeals by the government they have now reversed that finding and she is now being forced out.

Fine you say, some little low level functionary is being forced out of her job, what does that prove? Well, actually Ms. Hernandez is not some low level functionary. She is the Deputy Foreign Minister for North American Affairs. That is, she is second in command in the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And now that the foreign minister, Ali Rodriguez, is sick and in Cuba for treatment she is actually running the shop. What's more, she has always been very high profile in this position. Most Venezuelans couldn't name half the ministers in the government, but they would definitely know who she is. She also pens a widely read weekly column in El Nacional newspaper. So rather than being a low level functionary she is something akin to Condeleeza Rice.

But there is even more to it than that. Before assuming her position in the foreign Ministry she ran the "No" campaign in the recall referendum against Chavez. That's right, when Chavez desperately needed an electoral win to turn back efforts to oust him she was tapped to run his campaign and won his eternal gratitude by running it very successfully. So she is sort of like Venezuela's version of James Carville or Karl Rove.

Clearly she is no ordinary government employee. She is a cross between Condaleeza Rice and Karl Rove (in significance, not at all in politics). She is definitely in the top 10 of important figures within Chavismo. And now the Venezuelan Supreme Court, the one the opposition claims is packed and controlled by Chavez, has given her the boot and banned her from the government!!!!

The "Chavez is a dictator" line didn't work out too well. Now it appears the "Chavez controls everything" line isn't working out to well. I guess its on to the next complaint for the opposition. I'm sure they are working hard this very minute to think up some other BS.


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