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Opinion and Analysis: International | Opposition | Politics

Opposition Discusses “Plans” With Foreign Diplomats

Over the weekend, investigative journalist Jose Vicente Rangel warned of backroom opposition attempts to prevent another election win for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Citing a private meeting between members of opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) and Caracas based diplomats from the United States and Spain, among others, Rangel warned of ongoing efforts to “convince” the international community that anti-Chavez candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski “is set to win the October 7th election”. Inflating expectations in the press, Rangel explained, MUD strategists intend to carry out the recently-uncovered “Rapid Reaction Plan”, a violent post-election strategy made public late last week by Chavez Campaign Coordinator Jorge Rodriguez.

Speaking to viewers on Sunday 23 September during his weekly television program Jose Vicente Hoy, former Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel warned of suspicious opposition positioning in the final weeks of the 2012 presidential campaign. Referring specifically to a September 12 meeting held at the private residence of opposition gubernatorial candidate Richard Mardo, Rangel explained how “representatives of the Venezuelan opposition tried convincing foreign diplomats that Capriles is set to win the October 7 election, even if only by a small margin”.

According to the investigate journalist, “special guests” at the private meeting included Paolo Serpi, Antonio Perez-Hernandez, and Luis Raygada Souza-Ferreira, the Caracas-based Ambassadors of Italy, Spain, and Peru, respectively. James Derham, the top US diplomat in Venezuela, as well as Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s highest authority in country, also attended the luncheon. Brazil’s Ambassador in Caracas, Jose Antonio Marcondes de Carvalho, turned down the invitation.

In addition to Richard Mardo, the MUD’s candidate for Governor of Aragua State, those representing the Venezuelan opposition at the meeting were Luis Miquilena, an open supporter of the 2002 coup d’ etat against President Chavez, Marcel Granier, Managing Director of radical opposition media network Radio Caracas de Televisión (RCTV), and Carlos Bardasano, member of private media giant Venevisión’s Board of Directors.

According to Rangel, Mardo used the backroom meeting to express his “total lack of confidence in the National Elections Council (CNE)” and promise those present that he and “his people” are “prepared to take to the streets, using both motorcyclists and civilian groups to combat the Chavistas”.

What was “most surprising” about the meeting, Rangel said, was how “some of those in attendance cautiously requested further information while others made worrying affirmations and expressed their firm, radical positions”.

Private news media including opposition dailies El Universal and Noticias 24 also reported on the meeting, stating that Mardo and the others simply had gathered “to analyze Venezuela’s electoral situation”.

“Rapid Reaction Plan”

In addition to the troubling talks between foreign diplomats and the MUD, National Coordinator for the Chavez Campaign Jorge Rodriguez recently denounced what he called “irresponsible right-wing extremists within the (opposition’s) campaign” who have developed and circulated a document that details plans to cause political unrest in the aftermath of next month’s presidential election.

Titled the “Rapid Reaction Plan”, the document is said to have been prepared by Alejandro Plaz, former Director of Sumate, the US-financed NGO tasked with fomenting a greater opposition presence in Venezuelan politics. In the context of next month’s vote, “the authors of the Rapid Reaction Plan discuss criteria for selecting key sites to be taken over”, Rodriguez explained.

These sites include “national and regional freeways, major avenues, emblematic plazas, Governors’ and Mayors’ offices, strategic non-civilian points – meaning military installations – news media offices, ports, and airports”.

“What do ports and airports have to do with voting centers?” he asked. “What do military installations have to do with an election booth, with an electoral contest?”

Warning the Venezuelan people to “watch out” for possible opposition violence, Rodriguez added, “this plan describes nothing more than a desperate minority looking to react to a pending Chavez victory”.

Majority with Chavez

Consistent with polls reflecting a double-digit lead for President Chavez, but surprising to many in Venezuela’s anti-Chavez minority, Rodriguez also made public an email written by opposition lawmaker Julio Borges in which the Capriles ally affirmed “the majority of people are with the ruling candidate (Chavez), and this is something that can’t be denied”.

Not just any politician, Borges is the National Coordinator of Capriles’ Primero Justicia (PJ) party. Sent to Miami-based, anti- Chavez blogger Eric Ekvall, who suggested to Borges that the opposition should “claim fraud” after the October election, the email includes Borges telling Ekvall that, in Venezuela, “claims of fraud are simply an urban myth – elections are won through the vote”.

“Henrique (Capriles) is struggling against a tide that doesn’t allow itself be penetrated”, Borges wrote. In response to the message’s content, Borges denied having “any contact at all” with Ekvall and claimed the email address cited by Rodriguez (julioaborges@gmail.com) is “an account that doesn’t exist, and never has”.

Investigative journalist Mario Silva, on the other hand, followed up on Borges’ denials by showing two different articles written by the right-wing lawmaker and published in Venezuelan dailies El Universal (23 April 2008) and Ultimas Noticias (19 July 2009). Both pieces, analyses that advocate an end to the Chavez administration, were signed by Borges and included his aforementioned email address.