Venezuela's Opposition Melts

After the fierce clashes with the government, Chavez's foes see how the President normalizes the country under his authority. Opposition leaders are under arrest or went into exile.

Once powerful and combative, the Venezuelan opposition has fallen into a deep crisis after the two months strike failed. Chavez looks plenty of power and no anticipated elections can be forecasted in view of the current scenario. Not even Washington is a factor now, as US hawks are trapped in the sands of Iraq.

Also the main government's detractors, the national media, looks more interested on what is going on in Middle East than on internal affairs. People came back to work, oil plants to pump crude at normal levels and Chavez to upset people's ears by singing popular songs on radio stations. As per reports from Caracas, the new regulated economy keeps the macroeconomic variables under control; markets did not go haywire and the forecasted shortage has been sorted out.

On Thursday, the rebel trade-unionist leader, Carlos Ortega, went into exile in Costa Rica after spending the last week inside the Embassy of that Central American Country. Ortega had been charged with treason for organizing a national strike to oust President Chavez and was allowed by Venezuela's government to leave the country.

Ortega was one of the organizers of Venezuela's two-month crippling general strike that failed to force President Chavez to resign and call early elections. In a statement sent to Venezuelan news organizations, Mr. Ortega called President Chavez a dictator in training and pledged to keep fighting to end his rule. In the new environment, Ortega's statement is not expected to generate a reaction in the anti-Chavez population.

Therefore, Ortega will join the frustrated 24 hours President, Pedro Carmona, who led the coup, that briefly overthrown Chavez in April 11th 2002. Colombia had granted asylum to Carmona, the leader of the businessmen association. The list of exiled opposition leaders is not complete yet: Carlos Molina, a retired naval officer who faced an investigation for his role in the coup enjoys a political asylum in the Central American republic of El Salvador.

But apparently, they are the lucky ones. By the end of February, Carlos Fernandez, president of Venezuela's largest business federation FEDECAMARAS, was arrested and faces the same charges than Ortega, but in jail.

By that time, the bodies of four anti-Chavez activists were found in the suburbs of Caracas showing signs of torture: hands tied and faces wrapped with tape. Darwin Arguello, Angel Salas Felix Pinto and Zaida Peraza, 25, had multiple bullet wounds and showed signs of torture. According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, a witness saw the victims being forced into two vehicles by men wearing ski masks, not far from Plaza Altamira, the place that had become the opposition's central rallying point. "The circumstances strongly suggest that these were political killings," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch to the foreign press in Caracas, in February.

Despite Human Rights organizations' intervention, those cases were never clarified and remain unpunished.

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

Photo: Chavez smiles, as the storm passes away.

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Author`s name Editorial Team