Chavez spoke to a huge crowd in Caracas on Friday. It was by a significant amount the hardest speech I’ve ever heard from him, mostly to the effect of “Go ahead, make my day.” (No, I’m not in Venezuela. I listened to it — most of it at any rate — at work, where we have access to the satellite signals of the government VTV and the opposition Globo channel).
Chavez has ordered the military to protect the oilfields and other installations and warned that if there is any sabotage, any US-inspired disturbances Sunday night, oil shipments to the U.S. will be cut off immediately. He singled out the bourgeois media and said that any attempt to violate the law –which forbids publishing polls in the week before the election and (alleged) election results before polls close– will lead to their immediate shutdown. He warned international broadcasters –and CNN by name, and repeatedly– that this or any other sort of shenanigans will be met with the expulsion of their staff from the country.
He’s also expressed very clearly the line he has taken especially since coming back from abroad, that this referendum is an up-and-down, yes-or-no vote on the revolution and his presidency. I’m sure the ultralefts will go, “Aha! Bonapartist plebiscite!” But sometimes you’ve just got to call things by their right name. That is what the fight is about — not whether the subordinate clause in article 53 is infelicitously worded.
And he made very clear what being with the revolution means — it means going against the oligarchs, against Uribe, against the American imperialists, against the King of Spain, against the European imperialists, and being in solidarity with progressive and revolutionary forces throughout the world in general and with Fidel in particular.
He read and commented on Fidel’s latest column, which Walter I’m sure has already forwarded to the list.
The rally was at the same place where the opposition held its event yesterday, which CNN described as having been “hundreds of thousands.” Without having been there and knowing the area, it is hard to judge, but VTV had no problem yesterday finding areas of this avenue with very few people, even though the main area of the rally was full for what looked like several blocks. VTV today made a point of scanning from what seemed to be the same vantage point to show there were people much further back, and Chavez highlighted it also. I did not see the opposition channel I have access to try to show that the crowd thinned out after a few blocks; but I wasn’t monitoring them all the time.
Since Chavez came back from abroad and mounted what’s been in essence a ferocious counter-offensive against the opposition, it seems to have wilted a fair deal. An adventurist attempt to disrupt major traffic arteries a couple of days ago (they were going to leaflet motorists was the claim …) was dispersed with vigor, dispatch, and a good deal of tear gas. Some of the students came with their own tear gas masks and tried to provoke an escalation by pelting the police with rocks, but the police responded only with more tear gas. “Strangely,” an opposition TV mobile unit just “happened” to be nearby and filmed the events, but it did not appear to have evoked the hoped-for outrage when it was broadcast, perhaps because any idiot could see it was the opposition forces that provoked the incident and tried to escalate it (unsuccessfully).
So now it is a question of waiting for the next right wing provocation. Chavez has promised a no-holds-barred response and seemed to go way out of his way to make sure everyone understood there was no wiggle room, he was consciously painting himself into a corner. The deployment of army and other military units to guard oil fields and other strategic installations has the added advantage of making a coup by some disloyal officers much harder to carry out.
But the opposition has also painted itself into a corner. The impression I get is that they’ve depicted this as the final, now or never, effort to turn back the revolution, and it won’t be easy to get their hotheads to change course. Although Chavez and his supporters tend to present this all as a conscious, coordinated plot, the truth is that there is a law of social struggles that applies here to the opposition especially: when you set controlled forces into motion, you also set uncontrolled forces into motion.
The next couple of days will tell the tale.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.