- Miguel Tinker Salas
professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California. He is the author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela and the forthcoming Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.
- Michael Shifter
president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based policy forum on Western Hemisphere affairs. He is also an adjunct professor of Latin American politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
Venezuela has postponed today’s presidential inauguration as Hugo Chávez remains hospitalized in Cuba. The Venezuelan Supreme Court says Chávez is still president, but the opposition is calling for a caretaker government and new elections. We host a debate on Chávez’s presidency and what is next for Venezuela with Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and Miguel Tinker Salas, a Venezuelan-born professor at Pomona College and author of the forthcoming book, “Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.” [includes rush transcript]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Venezuela has postponed today’s presidential inauguration as Hugo Chávez remains hospitalized in Cuba after complications from a fourth cancer operation. The 58-year-old Chávez, who was first elected in 1998, has not been seen in public nor heard from since his surgery on December 11.
The postponement of the inauguration has set off a political crisis in Venezuela. On Wednesday, Venezuela’s top court ruled that Chávez could begin a new term today and be sworn in later before the court. Vice President Nicolás Maduro, who is now in charge of the day-to-day government, praised the ruling.
VICE PRESIDENT NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] In the name of the legitimate government of the commander president, who was re-elected by the Venezuelan people, the leader of this motherland, the government obeys the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice. Their word and their voice is sacred.
AMY GOODMAN: Opposition politicians in Venezuela have argued delaying President Chávez’s swearing-in for a new term leaves no one legally in charge of Venezuela once the current term ends today. They’ve called for the appointment of a caretaker president and new elections. Henrique Capriles, who lost October’s presidential election to Chávez, took aim at Venezuela’s judicial system.
HENRIQUE CAPRILES: [translated] The Supreme Court decided to resolve a problem for the ruling party. So what can I now say to Venezuelans? I am an example—and excuse me for speaking in first person, but I am an example of how one must fight against a judicial system that doesn’t work.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Supporters of Chávez have called for a huge rally outside the presidential palace in Caracas today. Allied leaders, including Uruguay’s José Mujica, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, are expected to attend.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration has embarked on a discreet, but concerted, weeks-long diplomatic initiative to open channels of communication with the Venezuelan government in the absence of Chávez. In 2002, Chávez survived a coup that toppled him briefly. He has long asserted that that coup was orchestrated by the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on Venezuela, we’re joined by two guests. Michael Shifter is president of the Inter-American Dialogue, also an adjunct professor of Latin American politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. And from Claremont, California, we’re joined by Miguel Tinker Salas, a professor at Pomona College, born in Venezuela, author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela. His new book, forthcoming, Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.
Michael Shifter, Miguel Tinker Salas, we welcome you both to Democracy Now! Michael Shifter, talk about what isn’t happening today, the inauguration, and what you feel needs to take place, which side you take now.
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, thank you very much.
I think that it’s not a surprise that the inauguration is not taking place today. I think that President Chávez clearly is very ill. I think there are going to be new elections. I think the government basically wants some time to figure out its strategy, to consolidate the authority of Nicolás Maduro, who is the key figure now, who I think will be the candidate of the government in the elections against Capriles. I don’t know if it’s going to take place in a month or two months, but it seems to me that that’s the scenario.
And it strikes me that the important thing in this situation are the politics. The Chávez government controls the executive, obviously, the judicial branch and also the National Assembly. So, they just—they won an election in October. They won regional elections in December. Chávez has enormous compassion—generates enormous compassion and sympathy among the Venezuelan people, so the government has the upper hand. But as we just heard, Henrique Capriles is beginning to come out and make some statements, because I think—I think people are getting ready for an election. I think the government probably has the edge at this point, but that’s the situation that we’re in.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Miguel Tinker Salas, you’ve questioned whether there is a constitutional crisis, as much of the press reporting has made out, or whether this is really more a strategy of the opposition and external opponents of the Chávez government. Could you talk about that?
MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: Sure. I mean, if this was Panama, Costa Rica, any other country, Honduras, we would not be having this conversation. The reality is, those constitutions are very similar to the Venezuelan constitution, which clearly states in Article 231 that if the president cannot be inaugurated before the National Assembly on January 10th, he can be or she can be sworn in at a subsequent time before the Supreme Court, so that the issue is not a constitutional crisis, although I think the opposition would like to create a constitutional crisis. And we’re seeing a lot of echo of that in the national press and the international press.
The reality is that in Venezuela there is a transition, no doubt about that, but the opposition would like to strike while the iron is hot. They see Chávez weak. They see the Chávez movement possibly weak. They’ve lost two subsequent elections. And what they’re really looking for is an opportunity to expand their base of support. And the challenge for them is that they really—as they have in the past, they’ve cut their nose to spite their face. In the past, they have really engaged in a series of undemocratic actions, and they’re risking, at this point, also drawing on the sympathy vote that Chávez will have and the Chavistas will have. So I think that they’re very—in a very precarious position, but I don’t think we have a constitutional crisis in Venezuela. I think we have a series of positions that are trying to precipitate one, but I don’t see a crisis at this point.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to come back to this discussion and talk about what Hugo Chávez has meant for Venezuela over more than a decade. We’re speaking with Miguel Tinker Salas of Pomona College and Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests, Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C., and Miguel Tinker Salas, professor at Pomona College. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Michael Shifter, I want to ask you, you said that you expect that there will be at some point over the next few months an election for a successor to Chávez, it looks likely that way, and that—that Chávez, before he went into the hospital, anointed Nicolás Maduro, who is actually the appointed vice president, not the elected vice president, as his preferred successor. But the constitution says that if he’s incapacitated, it should be the head of the National Assembly who takes office, also a chavista. Could you talk about these two figures and the differences between them, perceived either by the opposition or even within the chavista camp?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think they’re the two principal figures within Chavismo. Nicolás Maduro is somebody who was previously a union leader. He was in the National Assembly. He was president of the National Assembly. He’s been foreign minister for the last six years. He has close, strong contacts with the Cuban government. Cabello is a military figure and is very close to factions within the armed forces. He doesn’t—he has a very different background than Maduro does. But for the purposes—so they are the leading figures of a faction. I mean, Chávez was the only figure that can really unify the whole movement. He had—because of his charisma, because of his authority and just very astute political operations, he was able to do that. No figure comes close to him. These are the two principal ones that remain.
Maduro will be the candidate, because Chávez has designated him as such, but Cabello is going to be—play a very, very important role. The armed forces is a very important institution in Venezuela. Chávez came from the armed forces; Cabello does. And so, you’re going to see a situation where you’re going to have to work out deals and agreements and understandings, led by Maduro, but also Cabello would be in there playing an important role.
Now, to the extent that they could keep this together over time, I think, is a major question. Chávez was uniquely capable of doing that. And especially if there’s a very acute economic crisis and fiscal pressures, you may begin to see some real, very serious infighting among the different factions of Chavismo, which of course would weaken the capacity of the government to sustain itself.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Tinker Salas, can you respond to Michael Shifter and also talk about the significance of Hugo Chávez, what you think he has meant for Venezuela?
MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: I think, fundamentally, Chávez has changed the landscape. But it’s not just Chávez. I mean, the reality is that in 1998, Venezuela, when Chávez was elected, was at a crisis point. There had been a series of economic crises. The people had lost all faith in the political apparatus. There was a crisis of legitimacy. There was increasing social discontent. Over 85 percent of the population, according to a poll published in The New York Times, thought that the national government had mishandled the oil economy and society. So, again, Chávez was brought to power on a wave of tremendous social and political discontent.
And I think what he has done is—and not only him, but the social movements in Venezuela, have transformed the political landscape. I don’t think there’s any going back in Venezuela. I think any illusions that the opposition can return to a pre-1998-Chávez era are gone. And not only has Chávez helped transform Venezuela, but his impact within Latin America has been tremendously significant. The presence of Mujica, of Ortega and of Morales in Venezuela on his portended—or his portended inauguration speak to his impact in Latin America. And I think it has been significant in terms of the creation of a series of forums, such as UNASUR, the CELAC, Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American Nations, the ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance.
Now, internally, in terms of Maduro and Cabello, they represent two sides that complement each other to a very important extent. Maduro comes out of the social movements. He is a student leader. He is a union leader. He has been in the National Assembly. He helped draft the constitution, foreign minister. Cabello, on the other hand, comes out of the civic military tradition that exists in Venezuela, which is very much unlike other countries in Latin America, where you’ve had, really, a progressive military, dating back to the 1950s and ’60s and ’70s, who have taken sides with social movements. So both of them, in many ways, complement each other in projecting future of the Chavista movement in Venezuela.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Miguel Tinker Salas, the importance of what happens in Venezuela? People forget that Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, greater than even Saudi Arabia, and that, therefore, it has an enormous impact on oil politics across the planet. Could you talk about that and how Chávez used that oil wealth to further the social aims of his revolution?
MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: Well, if we think back, simply, where was Venezuela before 1998? We hardly had heard about Venezuela. It was a faithful ally of the U.S. It was always voting with the U.S., the OAS and the U.N. Venezuela was known for having a supply of oil, an array of very good baseball players, winning the meaningless Miss Universe contest on a regular basis. But other than that, Venezuela really did not have a real big footprint on the regional map or on the international map.
That dramatically changes with Chávez. And it changes because of the social policy. It changes because of the fact that one of the first policies Chávez implemented is, when in office, right around 2001, began to reexamine oil policy and found that a tremendous amount of the oil that Venezuela had in reserves was being classified as shale—that is, as oil sands. And again, reclaiming the national oil company, revising the contracts with those foreign oil companies, and reclassifying the reserves has in fact given Venezuela the largest oil deposit in the world, with potentially much more oil—500 billion barrels—potentially in the future, which means, again, that Venezuela’s role in terms of oil in rebuttressing OPEC and establishing energy alliances in Latin America, with Petrosur and Petrocaribe, have been fundamental in altering the policy, and then in taking those reserves and implementing a series of social programs.
Granted, the opposition will claim that that money is being misspent, but the reality is, for Venezuelans on the ground, it has improved their lifestyle. Poverty has been decreased by over 20 percent. Destitute poverty has come down to nearly 8 percent. There has been food programs. There have been health programs. There have been aid for pregnant mothers. There has been pension plans. There has now been a new housing program that is responsible for a 20 percent growth in construction, which has now given Venezuela a 5.5 growth during 2012. So we’ve seen a dramatic change, and that’s what gives the Chávez movement support, and that’s what continues to fuel much of the Chavista social movements and process.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Michael Shifter, you’ve been critical of some of this economic growth, and you’ve raised the issue in some of your writings, that—that it’s been—that Chávez failed to diversify the economy. But there is the reality that Venezuela now has the lowest income inequality in Latin America. Your—could you expound on some of your concerns about the economic development that has occurred under Chávez?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think the results of Chávez—I think, in this day and age, if you have a system of governance and a model where one person makes all the decisions, as we’ve seen in 14 years under Chávez, it’s very, very hard to deliver effective results. Oil production, in fact, has declined dramatically in Venezuela, and Venezuela has failed to diversify its economy. It’s more dependent on oil, but oil has gone—the production of oil has gone down. Venezuela imports everything; it doesn’t produce anything. So, this is—this is an economy that is really—that is really dependent on a single commodity, that is not performing well. There’s very little investment, and there’s very little coming into the country.
And we’ve seen the results. It has the highest inflation in Latin America. We all know, from Latin American history, that inflation affects—hits the poor the hardest. This is Chávez’s own constituency. It has an enormously high fiscal deficit. It has—it’s true that the well-being of Venezuelans generally has improved since 1998, when Hugo Chávez came in. When Chávez came in in 1998, 1999, oil was $10 a barrel. Now it’s gone over—well over $100. So, he has really ridden this tremendous increase in the price of oil, and he really had a tremendous opportunity, because of his charisma, because of his connection with Venezuelans, and because of the money that he had to spend. But being the fact—the fact that he has really made all the decisions himself and has discouraged a lot of private investment, has been very confrontational and very much of a polarizing figure, he hasn’t left Latin America more united. It’s true that Latin America is much more self-confident, more assertive, has enormous pride. I think Chávez deserves credit for contributing to that. But it’s also a region where there’s tremendous fragmentation, and there’s a lot of discord. And I think Chávez, as a polarizing figure, at the same time has also been responsible for that situation, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: In December 2009, I caught up with President Chávez for a few minutes at the U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen. I asked him what level of emissions reductions he was willing to support.
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] One hundred percent. One hundred percent. We must reduce the emissions 100 percent. In Venezuela, the emissions are currently insignificant compared to the emissions of the developed countries. We are in agreement. We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet. However, that requires a change in lifestyle, a change in the economic model: We must go from capitalism to socialism. That’s the real solution.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you throw away capitalism?
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] The way they did it in Cuba. That’s the way. The same way we are doing in Venezuela: giving the power to the people and taking it away from the economic elites. You can only do that through a revolution.
AMY GOODMAN: I also asked President Chávez what he thought of the U.S. government calling him a dictator.
PRESIDENT HUGO CHÁVEZ: [translated] I laugh. I laugh. It is the empire calling me a dictator. I’m happy. And I remember Don Quixote, Quixote who was with Sancho, you know, and the dogs start to bark, and Sancho says, “They are going to bite us.” And Quixote wisely answers, “Take it easy, Sancho, because if the dogs are barking, it is because we are galloping.” I will be very sad and worried if the imperialist government was calling me a great democratic man. No, it is them, the empire, who attack those who are truly contributing to the real democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Chávez in Copenhagen in December of 2009. Let me get the response of Professor Salas Tinker to that—Tinker Salas to that, sorry.
MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: Well, I think that—Tinker Salas. I think that there has been an effort in Venezuela to promote green energy, to promote environmental consciousness. There’s a lot more to do. Venezuela is very wasteful in terms of oil. Cars consume a tremendous amount of carbon monoxide. So there’s a tremendous amount that needs to be done. There’s a beginning consciousness about the environment, but there’s also a legacy of a hundred years in the oil industry that has really damaged the environment of the country, so there’s a lot to be done in terms of the country.
But in terms of what Mr. Shifter said previously, Venezuela’s deficit is not out of line with the rest of Latin America. Its public debt, it’s less than 7.8 percent—I’m sorry, its fiscal debt is less than 7.8 percent. Its public debt is about 45 percent—way in line with debt ceilings in terms of Latin America. And Latin America today is more united than ever before. You didn’t have, 12 years ago, the Union of South American Nations. You didn’t have CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations. You didn’t have Latin Americans resolving their own internal affairs, as was the case in Bolivia when part of Bolivia’s right wing attempted to separate from Bolivia and you had the president of Chile creating, calling for a meeting of presidents and making a declaration about the integrity of Bolivia. I think that it really speaks to the fact that Latin America is today confident, united, in ways we have never seen before. And I think that Venezuela has played an important role in that as an advocate for regional integration.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Michael Shifter, what about all of these changes at the regional level that Venezuela has helped spearhead? And also, when you mentioned that they have not diversified in terms of oil as their main source of income, they have diversified where their oil goes. Something like 600,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan oil now go to China as opposed to the United States or Western Europe. Your sense of how—the impact of Venezuela on regional politics?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, first of all, on the oil, it’s true that there’s some oil that goes to China, but not nearly as much as—as Chávez has—when Chávez came in, he claimed that he was going to do a lot more in diversifying the market. The fact is that—that Venezuela is still very heavily dependent on the U.S. market, and—because of the crude oil, because of the refinery system, it’s closer, it’s cheaper, and for a variety of reasons. And, of course, that is the main irony and contradiction of the whole U.S.-Venezuela relationship, is that while political relations have been very tense and full of strain, the oil keeps flowing, and Venezuela keeps selling, and the United States keeps buying it. So, that, I think, is—that, I think, you know, is a situation where I think the shift of the market really hasn’t happened very much.
I don’t see—if one looks at these regional organizations—CELAC or UNASUR—there’s no question that there has been increasing independence, distancing from the United States from Latin America, especially South America. This has to do with other factors besides Chávez, although Chávez has been part of it. The rise in commodity prices, the rise of Brazil, the role of Brazil, has been extremely, extremely significant. But if one looks at a lot of issues on economic questions, political questions, there are tremendous frictions between many Latin American countries. There’s a lot of discord. There’s a lot of disunity. There are conflicts between Chile and Peru. There are conflicts between a lot of different countries on a lot of different issues. There are trade problems between Chile—between Argentina and Brazil today. So, I don’t think the fact that these organizations exist, and have existed for a couple of years, it still remains to be seen how effective they’re going to be. They’re very new. And I think that there are a lot of differences, and I think that Chávez has been a polarizing force that has led to a lot of fragmentation in Latin America. I see a more self-confident region, a more assertive region, region with greater pride. As I said before, Chávez is part of that. But at the same time, it’s fragmented, and I also think he has been a factor in contributing to that tendency, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Juan González and I interviewed Nicolás Maduro Moros in October 2007, when he then served as Hugo Chávez’s foreign minister. It was a year after Chávez had famously referred to then-President George W. Bush as the devil in a speech before the United Nations, saying, quote, “The devil came here yesterday; it smells like sulfur today.” I asked Maduro what message he had for the United States.
NICOLÁS MADURO: [translated] Our message is a message, first of all, to draw a balance of what has happened over the last months in the world, what happened in the world, what’s been the role of the United Nations to guarantee peace, how much the world has lost as a result of this crazy policy that apparently will be prolonged with this attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran. It could reach a crazy level if we pretend to take the way of war to aggress, to attack the Iranian people.
Our message remains the same. The world should open their eyes. The U.S. society should react. The U.S. people can do a lot for peace, for stability in the planet, for the recovery of the planet. The awareness in the world today, it’s also expressed in the United States, and we need a large humane alliance between the U.S. people and the peoples of the world, respecting our diversity, cultural diversity, our different ways to see the world, and establishing a relationship of equality. That’s the main message, and that’s been the message of President Chávez a year ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro Moros, thank you very much.
AMY GOODMAN: Vice President—current Vice President Nicolás Maduro, speaking to us when he was foreign minister in 2007 in New York City. Miguel Tinker Salas, talk about what the U.S. relationship has been with Chávez, both under Bush and now under President Obama, and where Maduro fits into that.
MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: Well, I think, as you underscored in the piece before this, Maduro has been the foreign minister. And Maduro has been very important in reestablishing relationships with neighboring Colombia. He’s credited with, in fact, mending fences at a time when a previous administration, Álvaro Uribe, was very confrontational towards Venezuela, and they almost came to the point of breaking relationships. So that relationship has been, in fact, buttressed. And in that sense, Maduro has played a very important role in managing Venezuela’s foreign relationships with China, with the region’s—with the countries of the region, with which—with which Venezuela maintains very good relationships.
And the fact that we’re going to see the different presidents of Latin America today visiting Caracas and others visiting Cuba to see Hugo Chávez speaks to the fact of Venezuela’s importance in the region, speaks to the fact that it’s now gained a new prominence, speaks to the fact that Hugo Chávez’s policy reintegrated Venezuela into Latin America. If you think back again to 1998, Venezuela really did not look south; it only looked north. It looked abroad. Its elites looked abroad. And I think the election of Hugo Chávez forced a very much of an inward look into Venezuela and a lot of self-reflection about Venezuela’s relationship with the rest of Latin America, with the continent, with the region, back to what some would call its Bolivian roots. And I think that has been a very important contribution.
And there’s today a sense within Venezuela of its position within Latin America, a reclaiming of its status, of its position, and I think that’s very, very important in the context of Latin America and U.S.-Latin American relations, because that in fact has informed how the U.S. has treated Venezuela. At first, the Bush administration’s policy under Condoleezza Rice was to inoculate Latin America from Venezuela, as if Venezuela had some sort of disease that could spread. Unfortunately, the Obama administration promised much and delivered little. It continued the same Bush-era policies. And we’ve seen very much of a continuity between Bush and Obama. One is heartened to hear that in November the U.S. and Venezuela opened up back channels and began a conversation about the possibility of establishing new relationships and of exchanging ambassadors. And I think that’s very positive, and one looks forward to that.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Miguel Tinker Salas, what are you—in the next few days and weeks, what will you be looking for in terms of signs of what’s going to happen in Venezuela? Clearly, the government has taken the position that really only if the—if President Chávez is out of commission for 90 days, and then can actually renew that for another 90 days, so there’s basically a 180-day period where he could be incapacitated before they would have to actually be forced to take action in terms of new elections. Talk about what you’re looking for.
MIGUEL TINKER SALAS: Well, I think that we’re going to see the opposition continue the campaign. I think they’re going to continue to claim that there’s a constitutional crisis. I think they’re going to try to see if they can create—if divisions exist between Maduro and Cabello. None have been evident, but I think they’re going to try to play on potential contradictions. They’re going to continue to increase the international media campaign and pressure to try to depict Venezuela as in the midst of a crisis.
But again, let me underscore that this has been part of a process for the last 14 years. We’ve seen an opposition that for 14 years has been projecting Venezuela on the edge of the precipice, on the verge of a crisis. And the reality is that life goes on on a normal basis. Most Venezuelans continue to operate, irregardless of whatever the opposition to the government is saying. So I think—I expect to see a process of transition. I think, increasingly, we’re beginning to see what Chavismo without Chávez might look like. But I don’t see the country entering a crisis. I don’t see the country at the edge of a precipice. I think that’s an awful lot of a discourse that’s being promoted by the opposition and, unfortunately, being picked up by the international media.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Michael Shifter, how would you see the next few weeks or months, recalling that there were all of these forecasts that once Fidel Castro passed from the scene, that Cuba would change dramatically, but that hasn’t seemed to have happened so far?
MICHAEL SHIFTER: Well, I think that—my sense is that there’s going to be an election. I think we’re in a period where, again, the government is trying to consolidate its position, assert its authority. My sense is that Maduro is going to be the key figure. But I also have got a sense that the government doesn’t want to wait too long for the—to have elections. I think that they have the advantage, to the extent the election could take place sooner rather than later. And I think they have the edge against the opposition. The opposition is demoralized after its defeats in October and December. They were operating in a context where Chávez is clearly—I can’t imagine that Chávez is going to come back. I think that he may resign in the next couple of weeks, or at least indicate that he really is not in any position to resume the office of the presidency. And so, that will—there will be elections that will take place. That’s why Chávez designated Maduro. He acknowledged that himself.
And I think that the Chavismo is in a strong position. I think that there are serious, serious, profound problems in Venezuela, and I think that—economic problems, security problems, other problems. Chávez spent a lot of money in the campaign to win in October. And I think there is a serious fiscal imbalance and fiscal deficit. I think there probably will be a devaluation of some sort or some economic measures that will need to be taken once—if Maduro is elected the next president. But that’s—we’re going to see. I don’t see any imminent collapse or crisis. I think the Chavismo is in a strong position. I think the opposition is—hasn’t been doing well recently, and they certainly suffered a big blow in October and December. But I do think that if one looks from now until eight months from now or a year from now, I think it’s going to be very, very interesting to see to what extent Chavismo without Chávez can really maintain its unity. I think there may be serious differences between Cabello and Maduro and other leaders within Chavismo, particularly within the context of very, very acute economic problems. And so, that is what I would look for in the longer term. But I think, in the shorter term, I think Chavismo is in a very—is in a very strong position.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to just end on a historical note, going back in time a decade ago, an excerpt of a documentary made by two filmmakers who were in Caracas during the attempted coup of 2002. The film was called The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The excerpt begins with then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer.
PRESS SECRETARY ARI FLEISCHER: Let me share with you the administration’s thoughts about what’s taking place in Venezuela. We know that the action encouraged by the Chávez government provoked this crisis. The Chávez government suppressed peaceful demonstrations, fired on unarmed, peaceful protesters, resulting in 10 killed and 100 wounded. That is what took place. And a transitional civilian government has been installed.
NARRATOR: Despite the blackout by the Venezuelan private media, members of Chávez’s government have managed to communicate with international television networks, getting the message back to Venezuela via cable TV that Chávez had not resigned and was being held captive.
The palace guard, who had remained loyal to Chávez, decided to act. Behind Carmona’s back, a plot was being hatched by Chávez’s men to retake the palace. The plan was for the guard to take up key positions, surround the palace, and to wait for a given signal. With all their positions secured, the signal was given, and the presidential guard moved in. Several members of the newly installed government were taken prisoner, but in the confusion, Carmona and the generals had managed to slip away.
As the guards secured the building, Chávez’s ministers, who had been in hiding for the last two days, began to arrive back to the palace to try and reestablish the legitimate cabinet.
AMY GOODMAN: A clip from the documentary, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. And, of course, we’ll continue to follow developments in Venezuela as Hugo Chávez remains ill with cancer in Cuba. We want to thank Miguel Tinker Salas, professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we look at a challenge to the stop-and-frisk program in New York. Stay with us.