The Chavez Dilemma: to Stay or to Go?

The things of the Venezuela President, Hugo Chavez are going badly. For already two weeks, a general strike is developing in the country, the most enduring one within the whole time of Chavez being at power. It is hard to say how it ends: the President declared many times he would not go on his own free will. So far he made efforts to support his words with real deeds: reports about violent dispersal of the demonstrations became common for Venezuela. But, you know, when colonel Chavez came to power four years ago, there were not so many politicians who enjoyed as much popularity as he did.

From the very outset of his government, Chavez gave to understand that he did not intend to follow the country traditional political course – to head for the US. Having increased export oil price for the US, the President at the same time decided to supply energy carriers to Cuba at a cut price. While openly admiring Fidel Castro, Chavez won sympathy of almost all Latin America. Though, he underestimated the power of traditional elite in his own country, which he accused of corruption and crawl before Washington. And as it became clear that the Chavez economical policy is collapsing, his opponents did not fail to use this situation.

It was not so difficult to organize a powerful tide of anti-presidential manifestations. Chavez, in fact, turned out to be hostage of his own popularity. Crowds which exalted him not long ago, were soon persuaded that the President was guilty of the worsening economical situation in the country. If in 1998 Chavez was supported by 80 percent of Venezuelans, now the same percentage is needed to make him resign.
It should be remembered that Chavez has already once been deprived of his power: April this year, he was displaced from his post. However, his being out of the office lasted only two days: the President was “rescued” by paratroopers, the Chavez main support at that moment. Though, later the plotters were justified by High Court of the country. While the President did not dare to oppose this decision.
The today’s situation of Chavez is as bad as in spring. Demonstrators demand him to send in his resignation  and to carry out a pre-term election. Washington one more time reminded of itself, while recommending to Chavez to send in his resignation.

The US authorities attention to the situation in Venezuela could be easily explained: behind the US words about human rights, there is obviously the fear to lose its dominating position in Latin America. All the more that recent election in Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia show that politicians become more popular who actively accuse the US of all troubles of their countries. For that people, Chavez is the symbol of resistance to US hegemony. So, no wonder that the name of Chavez is so popular out of Venezuela.

While Venezuelans themselves are now not so interested in the Chavez anti-US attacks. Unemployment growth and inflation do not further meditations on the US role in the Latin America affairs. Of course, Hugo Chavez could remain at power till 2003, when Venezuelans will participate in a referendum and answer the question whether they want Chavez to be at power or not. But even in this case, the Chavez remaining at power would be ephemeral. It is hard to lead the country to prosperity and to neutralize opposition, being supported only by paratroopers.

Vasily Bubnov

Translated by Vera Solovieva

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Author`s name Olga Savka