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Estados Unidos y Venezuela: Acciones por encima de la retórica

June 13, 2013

by Paula Ramón

Turbulentas han sido las relaciones entre Estados Unidos y Venezuela desde que Hugo Chávez dio rienda a su proceso revolucionario en 1999. En medio de altas y bajas, John Maisto, embajador norteamericano en Caracas entre 1997 y 2000, pareció entender con rapidez el fenómeno bolivariano y apuntó que “hay que fijarse en lo que Chávez hace, no en lo que dice”. 

Desde entonces, Caracas y Washington han vivido cualquier cantidad de desencuentros políticos, especialmente entre 2001 y 2009, durante la gestión de George W. Bush. En esos años, Chávez no titubeó al desatar su oratoria y, con la acepción negativa del verbo, innovó en estilos diplomáticos al usar epítetos como “diablo” y “burro” para referirse a su homólogo norteamericano. 

Algunos podrían pensar que una de las mayores frustraciones del ex presidente Hugo Chávez era que “el imperio”, como solía enunciar, era el principal socio comercial del país que proclamaba su segunda emancipación. Un cliente que recibe la mitad de los 3 millones de barriles de petróleo que Venezuela produce diariamente. También un proveedor que despacha la mayoría de los bienes que la nación caribeña consume. En síntesis, un aliado con quien la balanza comercial ha crecido durante cuatro años consecutivos. 

Pero sin ánimos de entrar en el terreno especulativo, lo cierto es que uno de los grandes apegos de “la revolución bonita” era la oratoria de su líder, y gran parte de la, tan mentada, segunda independencia nacional no era otra cosa que una intachable clase improvisada de retórica. En la práctica, la Venezuela de nuevas instituciones y lemas patrióticos era tan pro americana como aquella que en los años 70 hacía gala de la bonanza petrolera comprando ropa y bienes en Miami.

Culturalmente, la afinidad entre ambos países es tan grande que, justamente, la motivación que llevó a Hugo Chávez a la Academia Militar no fue otra que el béisbol, el deporte bandera de los americanos. El sueño del, entonces, recluta era ser descubierto por un seleccionador e iniciar su carrera de ascenso hacia las grandes ligas. Años más tarde, la política le permitiría una mínima satisfacción personal: en 1999, durante su única visita oficial a Estados Unidos, fue invitado a abrir un juego en el estadio de los Mets de Nueva York. 

Su admiración por el líder cubano, Fidel Castro, y sus coqueteos con China en busca de apoyo político a cambio de petróleo, no modificaron ni un ápice la relación comercial entre Caracas y Washington. Políticamente, el saldo de la retórica sí es constatable: ocho años desde la última reunión de cancilleres, cinco años sin embajadores, y apenas un encuentro oficial de mandatarios. 

El apretón de manos que Obama y Chávez protagonizaron ante el frenesí de las cámaras, en 2009, durante la cumbre de las Américas de Trinidad y Tobago, fue un suerte de presagio, descartado dos años después cuando Venezuela rechazó las credenciales del embajador designado, Larry Palmer. 

La semana pasada, nuevamente un apretón de manos figuró en la prensa nacional: el secretario de Estado, John Kerry, y el canciller venezolano, Elías Jaua, sonrieron ante los flashes, y con banderas de fondo, dieron garantía de que ambas magistraturas quieren un acercamiento. 

Según Jaua, ésta fue una de las últimas instrucciones de Chávez. Esto a pesar de que el 5 de marzo, horas antes de anunciar la muerte del mandatario, su sucesor, Nicolás Maduro, expulsó dos agregados militares de Estados Unidos bajo acusaciones de supuestos intentos de “desestabilizar” el régimen. Los meses subsiguientes no fueron menos frenéticos: el Ejecutivo venezolano denunció que Washington no sólo podría ser el culpable del cáncer que afectó a Chávez, sino que además tejía planes para asesinar a Maduro, y, también, a su contendor Henrique Capriles Radonski.

En medio del vaivén discursivo, Calixto Ortega, actual encargado de negocios venezolano en Washington, aseguró que no existe aquello de “malas relaciones” con Estados Unidos, es sólo “una matriz mediática”, frase de efecto que emplean los seguidores de la causa revolucionaria para desmeritar un hecho y volverlo apenas una invención de la prensa opositora. 

Paradójicamente, Ortega afirmó este miércoles que “hay una nueva etapa en las relaciones con Estados Unidos”, hasta adelantó que podría venir un encuentro Obama-Maduro. Tocará ver si esta nueva etapa se materializa, o si, por el contrario, la máxima de Maisto también se aplica a los herederos del proceso. 

 

 

Tags: Venezuela, United States, Hugo Chavez, John Kerry, Elias Jaua

Life After Chávez: The Apple Can Fall Far From the Tree

April 2, 2013

by Santiago E. Fontiveros

The day Steve Jobs died after a much-publicized battle with cancer, Apple’s shares rose in what analysts called “a tribute” to the company’s late founder. The next year, Apple’s stock continued its climb, making Apple the most valued company ever as a measure of market capitalization. Jobs’ successor, Tim Cook, had long been preparing for this moment, assuring the market that he could handle the company after Jobs was gone.

Yet, as time goes by, Apple, its shareholders, Cook, and millions of Apple customers around the world are painfully reminded that there can only be one Steve Jobs.

This lesson could be instructive to Venezuela’s interim president, Nicolás Maduro, as he faces the daunting task of preserving the Bolivarian revolution without the charisma of its colorful founder.

Maduro’s short-term strategy may seem obvious: win the elections against a confused opposition and extend the life of la revolución, using the Chávez brand in a sort of political halo-effect.  The long-term strategy is less clear, however. Even if Maduro wins and the government’s popularity increases in the near future, Maduro must eventually face the harsh realization that he is not Chávez, and that pretending to be him is easier said than done.

This does not need to be a tragedy for the Venezuelan government. It can be viewed as an opportunity to upgrade the revolution, as Deng Xiaoping once did with China. Meanwhile, the opposition must also learn to manage the revolution, instead of simply fighting it. If not, animosity will once again cloud rational judgment.

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Tags: Hugo Chavez, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela

Capriles Vows to End Cuba Support

March 19, 2013

by AQ Online

Venezuelan opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Rodonski said on Monday that if he wins the presidential election on April 14, he will stop sending 100,000 barrels a day of oil to Cuba and other countries in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). “Not one more drop of oil will go to help finance the Castro regime,” Capriles said at a political rally in the Zulia state.

Capriles went on to criticize Hugo Chávez’s successor and current interim president, Nicolás Maduro, as “Raúl Castro’s candidate,” and said that Havana is just using Venezuela to buoy the Castro regime. Capriles’ comments come in stark contrast to those of his opponent, Maduro, who has pledged Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic support for Cuba, saying his government will “remain firm” on the issue. In return, Cuba sends 40,000 doctors and other professionals to Venezuela.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) set the April 14 date for the election due to a clause in the constitution that requires the election to be called 30 days after the death of the sitting president. Capriles lost to Chávez in last October’s general election by 11 percentage points, and will be looking to remobilize his base in the coming weeks. However, chavista control over Venezuela’s political infrastructure and media, coupled with an outpouring of support following Chávez’ death, have given Maduro a 14-percentage point lead over his opponent, according to the first major poll published in anticipation of the election.

Tags: Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, Henrique Caprilles Rodonski

Chávez Death Leaves a Power Vacuum in Venezuela

March 8, 2013

by Diego Moya-Ocampos

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has died of cancer, leaving a power vacuum that will be hard to fill in the oil-rich country. After Vice President Nicolás Maduro’s announcement of the president’s death, Minister of Foreign Affairs Elías Jaua announced on March 6 that elections would be called in 30 days, as the constitution stipulates, and clarified that Maduro would maintain executive powers until then.

The constitution cast doubts over the legality of Maduro’s temporary succession. It decrees that if the death or incapacitation of the president takes place before a new president is sworn in—as occurred in Venezuela—the head of the national assembly, not the vice president, should take on executive powers until elections take place.

The government declared seven days of mourning for the president and suspended classes nationwide. Maduro said that the armed forces and the national police would be on the streets to prevent violence.

According to the government, Chávez had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment at the Carlos Arvelo military hospital in Caracas, although no pictures or film footage has corroborated that and no one other than top government officials has attested to seeing him there. The president last appeared in public on December 9, 2012, when he appointed Maduro as vice-president and called on the ruling Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV) and the armed forces to back Maduro if he had to assume presidential responsibilities. The Supreme Court indefinitely postponed Chávez's presidential swearing-in ceremony on January 10, 2013.  The court also ruled that Maduro and the rest of the ministers from the 2007-2013 presidentialterm would remain in their posts for the 2013-2019 term.

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Tags: Hugo Chavez, Venezuela

World Leaders Arrive For Chávez’s Funeral

March 8, 2013

by AQ Online

More than 30 heads of state traveled to Caracas for the funeral of Hugo Chávez, the president of Venezuela since 1999 and the architect of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) who passed away on Tuesday after a two-year battle with cancer. Upon his arrival, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said, "he was a dear friend of all nations worldwide; he was the emotional pillar for all the revolutionary and freedom-seeking people of the region and the world."

The long list of world leaders and delegations expected to attend include Cuban President Raúl Castro, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Uruguayan President José Mujica, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Beyond Ahmadinejad, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is also confirmed. In representation of President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department sent a delegation comprised of U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (NY), former Congressman William Delahunt (MA) and diplomat James Derham.

Chávez lay in a half-open, glass-covered casket in the military academy’s hall, wearing olive green military gear, a black tie and the iconic red beret symbolic of his 14-year socialist rule. The government declared that more than 2 million people had come to pay their respects since Wednesday. Chávez’s body will be embalmed and kept in a glass casket similar to other socialist leaders such as Ho Chi Minh, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong. After the funeral, his body will be transported to the military headquarters from where he commanded a failed coup in 1992.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said Vice President Nicolás Maduro would be formally sworn-in as acting president at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, and that he would “call for elections.” The National Electoral Council (CNE) is tasked with setting a date for the elections, which must be called within 30 days according to the Venezuelan constitution.

Tags: Hugo Chavez, Venezuela

Las huellas de Chávez en Colombia

March 7, 2013

by Jenny Manrique

Una versión de este artículo se publicó originalmente en el portal Infobae América

“Con profundo dolor, la Delegación de Paz de las FARC-EP, se une al duelo de los bolivarianos de Venezuela y del mundo ante la noticia descorazonadora, triste, del fallecimiento del Comandante Presidente, Hugo Chávez.”

Las condolencias de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) fueron enviadas entre el maremágnum de pésames que el mundo entero dio a Venezuela: Sin embargo, no pasaron desapercibidas en el contexto político colombiano ante la innegable influencia que tuvo el fallecido líder bolivariano sobre el conflicto que azota al país hace medio siglo.

El presidente Juan Manuel Santos, quien recompuso las relaciones con Venezuela a su llegada al poder, también reconoció el papel de Hugo Chávez en el proceso de paz. “Si hemos avanzado en un proceso sólido de paz, con procesos claros y concretos, es también gracias a la dedicación y el compromiso sin límites del presidente Chávez”, dijo desde la Casa de Nariño.    

Fruto de una enconada pelea diplomática, Chávez despertó más odios que amores en Colombia durante los ocho años de presidencia de Álvaro Uribe. Venezuela—país que hoy se desempeña como garante de los diálogos—fue acusado de dar albergue a las FARC y patrocinar la lucha armada de la guerrilla. Estas denuncias tuvieron su punto más álgido tras el hallazgo de las computadoras del número dos de las FARC, Raúl Reyes, quien falleció tras un bombardeo del ejército colombiano en Sucumbíos, Ecuador, en 2008.

Los mensajes encriptados de las computadoras de Reyes fueron estudiados por el Instituto Internacional de Estudios Estratégicos (IISS), el cual reveló que Chávez se reunió en el año 2000 al menos dos veces con el líder guerrillero, y que habría prometido $300 millones para ayudar a la subversión colombiana en su lucha armada. Ecuador y Venezuela siempre impugnaron la veracidad de esas pruebas. Estos hechos provocaron la ruptura de las relaciones económicas entre Colombia y Venezuela, mientras Chávez acusó al gobierno colombiano de haber violado la soberanía ecuatoriana. Consecuentemente, el presidente bolivariano ordenó el envío de tanques hacia la frontera con Colombia y solicitó el retiro de todo el personal de la embajada de Venezuela en Bogotá.

La guerra verbal entre los dos países se atizó de tal forma que la mediación que Chávez estaba ejerciendo en la liberación de rehenes fue suspendida por Uribe. Santos, entonces su Ministro de Defensa, había sido el mayor detractor de este protagonismo de Chávez al considerar que el mandatario venezolano había usado las liberaciones como” propaganda política,” aprovechándose “del drama humanitario de los rehenes”.

Durante los ocho años de uribismo Santos fue un acérrimo detractor de Chávez y fue el primero que denunció la existencia de campamentos de las FARC en la frontera venezolana. También fue crítico del fin de la relación de Caracas con la Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) al señalar que “buena parte de la droga colombiana sale por Venezuela”. Como resultado, durante la campaña electoral del 2011 en la cual Santos se fungía como el heredero legítimo de Uribe, Chávez llegó a calificarlo de “mafioso” y sostuvo que su elección significaría más guerra y menos posibilidades de reactivar el comercio bilateral.

Pero fue Santos quien le apostó a mejorar las relaciones con su vecino y le dio un lugar importante en la agenda colombiana. Escándalos como las revelaciones El Nuevo Herald sobre el conocimiento de Chávez de los vínculos su ex ministro de Defensa, Henry Rangel Silva con narcos y las FARC habrían sido un detonante para la diplomacia binacional, pero no en la era Santos: el presidente prefirió guardar silencio ante el caso.

Santos, quien sin duda prefirió la diplomacia a la confrontación, también le concedió a Venezuela la extradición del narcotraficante Walid Makled, capturado en Colombia en 2011, de quien se esperaba que de ir a Estados Unidos hablaría sobre la relación de funcionarios venezolanos con negocios ilegales como lavado de dinero y narcotráfico.

Tras la muerte del mandatario venezolano, figuras como el senador Juan Fernando Cristo, aseguró que “gústele a quien le guste, independientemente de las diferencias que pudimos tener los colombianos con muchas de las actitudes, Chávez fue clave para el proceso de paz”. Piedad Córdoba, ex legisladora cercana al fallecido presidente, lloró ante las cámaras al recordar emotivamente que Chávez fue un hombre “que amó a su gente y buscó la paz para Colombia.”

Chávez fue generoso con los colombianos en Venezuela a quienes ceduló masivamente—con propósitos electorales por supuesto. También fortaleció los programas de refugio y asilo los cuales, a pesar de no ser ideales, permiten proteger a más nacionales huyendo del conflicto.

Es improbable que su muerte desvié el curso de las conversaciones de paz, pero un cambio de timón en la política venezolana podría replantear por lo menos la política de defensa fronteriza. Lo cierto es que el líder bolivariano dejó una profunda huella tanto en Colombia, como en Latinoamérica y en el mundo.

Tags: Colombia, Venezuela, Hugo Chavez

Cuba Mourns the Loss of Closest Ally

March 7, 2013

by AQ Online

Grief mixed with uncertainty over Cuba's future on Wednesday as the island mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, changed the color of its masthead from red to black for the first time to commemorate the loss of the regime's closest ally, and dedicated six of its eight pages to Chávez' life. In a television addressed to the nation, the Cuban government pledged "resolved and unwavering support for the Bolivarian Revolution in these difficult days" and ordered an official mourning period through Friday. 

The Cuba-Venezuela alliance isn't only one of aligned ideologies. Cuba receives over 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela in exchange for thousands of Cubans working in Venezuelan clinics and schools. Cubans will take some comfort in the fact that interim President Nicolás Maduro seems likely to win the election that must be organized within 30 days, despite a second challenge by Governor of Miranda Henrique Caprilles Radonski. A chavista win would guarantee continued Venezuelan patronage in the short term.

But if Venezuela's oil exports to Cuba dry up—whether due to political turnover or economic crisis—the Communist regime does not have a clear backup plan or other ideological allies that would readily step to fill the gap.

Tags: Cuba, Venezuela, Hugo Chavez

Venezuela Reckons with Chávez' Death

March 6, 2013

by Juan Víctor Fajardo

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who died of cancer on Tuesday in Caracas, will be remembered by some as a tireless man, as a tireless dreamer, who led and designed a socialist project for Venezuela meant to empower the country’s poor and to deeply transform the social and moral fabric of the oil-rich nation.

He will be remembered by some as an unconventional man of epic historical import; a military man from a humble, rural household who rose to the highest political office in the country; a man who developed, in his 14 years as president, an almost sacred bond with the poor and the voiceless; a showman; a jester; an international figure of long, passionate speeches; a man who, in life, had already achieved the presence and size of a legend.

Today, Venezuela’s crime-ridden capital city of Caracas—the place that witnessed Chávez’s failed coup attempt in 1992 and gave him multiple victories at the ballot box—moves in silence.

The sudden panic that ensued in the hours following the news of the president’s passing has now subsided into a somber calm as Chávez’s supporters prepare to bury their leader.

Late Tuesday night, the Venezuelan government declared seven days of national mourning. The president’s funeral, scheduled to last until Friday, is expected to bring a countless number of Venezuelans into the streets of Caracas.

In the midst of everything that involves the passing of a recently re-elected president, many unanswered questions loom in the minds of Venezuelans—among them, those that pertain to the short-term political future of the country.

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Tags: Hugo Chavez, Venezuela

Latin America Reacts to Chávez’ Death

March 6, 2013

by AQ Online

Latin Americans are mourning the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who passed away at age 58 on Tuesday. Just hours before Chávez died, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro had accused Venezuela’s enemies of “attacking” the leader with cancer and expelled two U.S. Embassy officials for allegedly conspiring against the deceased president.  The president’s body will be taken in a procession through Caracas to the Military Academy where it will lie in state until his funeral on Friday.

Despite ideological differences, the president’s death sent shockwaves of grief across the region. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called for a moment of silence and said that although Brazil did not always agree with his actions, Chávez was a “generous man to all the people in this continent who needed him.” The Cuban government ordered all flags flown at half-staff and declared an official mourning period through Friday. Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner suspended all presidential activities after the announcement, while Chile, Ecuador and Colombia sent their condolences to the mourning nation. Bolivian President Evo Morales, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Uruguayan President José Mujica are expected to travel to Caracas for Chávez’ funeral.

Condolences also poured in from Venezuela’s overseas allies: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced a day of mourning and compared the fallen leader to a saint, while Russian president Vladimir Putin hailed Chávez as “an extraordinary and strong man” and Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, called Chávez "a good friend to the Chinese people." Meanwhile, Henrique Capriles, Chávez’ chief opponent in last year’s presidential elections, took to Twitter to stress the need for respect and unity amongst all Venezuelans and sent his condolences to Chavez’ family and supporters, saying that while they were adversaries, they were never enemies.

The official funeral ceremony for heads of state will take place on Friday at 10:00am at the Military Academy in Caracas. Under the Venezuelan Constitution, a new election must be held in 30 days after the president dies or steps down. Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro, Chávez’ handpicked successor, will step up as the interim president and is expected to run against Capriles, who led a spirited opposition campaign in October.

Tags: Venezuela, Hugo Chavez

Chávez Leaves a Mess

March 6, 2013

by Juan Nagel

Hugo Chávez died today at the age of 58. While many of his obituaries will focus on his voluminous political legacy, the day-to-day issues he leaves behind are enormously complex. Eventually, they are sure to overshadow any historical discussion about the man.

Politically, his movement is orphaned. Chávez was not only president of Venezuela, he was also president of his party, commanding every detail—from which candidates ran where to which judges had to be fired. His tenuous political coalition—made up of community leaders, the military, old-style communists and entrepreneurs looking to make a quick buck—was only held together by the sheer force of the president’s charisma, which punished dissent swiftly and mercilessly. With Chávez gone, it’s not clear who will make the decisions, or who will keep the tensions among these factions at bay.

Economically, the Chávez legacy is horrendous. The Venezuelan economy consists of a series of distortions piled upon further distortions. Price controls, labor rigidities, foreign exchange controls, clogged ports, and crumbling highways are the norm in Venezuela. Together with a rapacious public sector, a crippling budget deficit, and an underperforming banking sector, the Venezuelan economy is a veritable ticking time bomb held up only by sky-high oil prices that, amazingly, are not enough to sustain the ever-growing chavista State. And while poverty has fallen thanks to massive government spending, this cannot survive a slight dip in oil prices.

In addition, Venezuelans are suffering from one of the worst crime waves any nation not engaged in civil war has ever seen. The government seemingly has no clue on how to tackle the problem. As program after program fails, the government blames the media—or some fictional capitalist culture.

Venezuelans have been in suspended animation ever since December, when the president—in his last public appearance—announced he was going back to Cuba for treatment and named his successor. Ever since that day, life in Venezuela has been a swirl of rumors, indecision and surreal policy-making that even saw the Supreme Court decide that Chávez didn’t have to be sworn in, as the Venezuelan constitution mandates.

Now, that is in the past. A glorious funeral will ensue, and Nicolás Maduro may very well ride the public’s outpouring to an election win. But soon, he will have to come to terms with a political system that has stopped working, and with an economy in tatters.

Congratulations on your inheritance, Mr. Maduro.

Tags: Venezuela, Hugo Chavez

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