US media reports about Chavez's health problems altogether read as a message persistently sent by Washington that the epoch of Chavez is over. Last summer, former US envoy to the Organization of American States (OAS) Roger Noriega published a paper titled “U.S. Must Prepare for a World Without Hugo Chavez” with the claims that “the cancer-ridden Chavez” has lost his grip on Venezuela, the country's current regime is doomed, and the struggle over the post-Chavez Venezuela is already raging. Noriega therefore urges the Venezuelan opposition to be more assertive in compiling a program for Venezuela's transition period “from dictatorship to democracy”.
Venezuela's present-day opposition bracketed within Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Coalition for Democratic Unity, MUD) hopes that the electorate was given enough time to forget about the bloc's predecessor - the Democratic Coordination which in 2001-2004, under the supervision of the CIA, the US Defense Intelligence Agency, and the US Department of State,made several attempts on Chavez and and regularly instigated coups in Venezuela. The extremist and terrorist past, however, cannot be erased from the Venezuelan national memory no matter how the MUD leaders pledge allegiance to democracy these days. At the moment the opposition has to be hyperactive considering that the elections in Venezuela are slated for October 7, 2012.
With fresh polls giving Chavez 55%-60%, it is highly unlikely that he is going to face a serious challenge from any of his rivals. Those are available in quantities: the list includes Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, National Assembly member María Corina Machado, Zulia State governor Pablo Pérez, capital city alcalde Antonio Ledesma, etc. Nominating a consensus candidate by February, 2011 will not be easy for MUD considering that all of the above are authoritarian, egoistic, and uncooperative figures. In reports to Washington, US diplomats and spies routinely cite the opposition's inability to act in concert as the reason behind the chronic inefficiency of their own efforts.
The US embassy in Caracas is busy implementing a broad plan supposed to help the opposition rise to power in Venezuela.Two plans are currently on the table. The first involves an important “cosmetic” component as the bloc of Chavez's opponents has to be sold as a political force inclusively representing the whole Venezuelan population, in part by taking over the slogans and the agenda of the acting administration and by convincing the people that, if instated, the opposition would maintain the same social programs while using the oil revenues with greater efficiency. No doubt, such promises have nothing to do with reality when dispensed by a coalition like MUD which is run by a bunch of neoliberals. Going public with neoliberal views in the electoral campaign which de facto opened in Venezuela is detrimental to one's score, while the empty pledges do resonate with a part of the Venezuelan constituency which is tired of the country's permanent political confrontation.
Prof. Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, foreign policy specialist and a member of the Copei – Social Christian Party of Venezuela leadership, is in charge of organizing the opposition's campaign. Aveledo was elected to the parliament three times, served as a secretary to president Luis Herrera Campins, and authored over a dozen of books including one about XX century dictators, with F. Castro counted as such along with A. Hitler, B. Mussolini, J. Stalin, F. Franco, and Mao Zedong. Aveledoand his closest associates assist US sponsors in pouring money into MUD and staying in touch with Venezuela's cunning and active fifth column – the group of covert oppositioners holding posts in the Venezuelan government, security services, and army.
Venezuelans know from experience that in practice neoliberal reforms expose the nation to endless pains and hardships. What awaits Venezuela if the opposition wins is a predatory dictatorship exercised by a group of oligarchs, a shutdown of industrialization and agriculture modernization programs, and step-by-step cuts of the government support for free education and housing. Similarly to Venezuela's past, plutocracy will be making inroads into the administration and gaining control over the president's decision-making. Under a potential scenario, the nation will mount resistance to the closure of social programs to which the people already got used, and the empowered MUD will make the army and the police prop up the regime by repressive means. MUD will surely subject the army and the police to ideologically motivated purges and expel from them whoever would be suspected of holding communist or populist views.
Noriega briefs his peers that “the corrupt Chavez regime” and the “Cuban-trained” army generals and ideologists will not give up without resistance which, as he says, can take a form of derailing the planned elections. That set of ideas actually shows what arguments the opposition will present when, at a certain moment, it will be begging the US to intervene ostensibly to restore democracy. Now it is to early to predict whether the opposition will prevail without revolt in October, 2012, but it is clear that unless Chavez achieves a tremendous triumph, his opponents already have plan B to set in motion. In its framework, there will be an outcry over alleged rigging in opposition-controlled media, and radical groups schooled in street unrest will, along with former AUC guerrillas, some student organizations and retired officers, destabilize the situation across the country.
Chavez is certainly aware of the opposition's plan to ignite conflicts across Venezuela and to provoke international intervention. He speaks frequently of April, 2002 when the White House, the Pentagon, and the US and European far-right faced a spectacular failure as the nation rose against the coup and threw its support behind Venezuela's legitimate president, and says that another attack may come a decade after the events.
Eager to see a crisis erupt, the MUD leadership submitted to the US Congress a request for financial and other assistance in Venezuela's “transition”. Chavez condemned the step as utmost servility and an undisguised violation of the Venezuelan constitution, warning that the Libyan scenario would not go through in Venezuela.
In line with Noriega's advice, a group of MUD experts drafted “a transition period law” defining the obligations and authority of president-elect in the interregnum between the finalization of ballot count and the inauguration. Pro-Chavez parliamentarians in the National Assembly criticized the piece of legislation as a MUD bid to intercept influence over Venezuela's political course on the eve of the inauguration, but MUD interpreted the very openness of the Chavists to polemic as evidence that they lacked confidence in the incumbent's reelection.
MUD candidate's victory would mark the neoliberals' comeback in Venezuela and become a prologue to the dismantling of the socioeconomic gains Chavez's regime has on record. The impact on Venezuela's foreign policies would be equally alarming – the country would revert to the partnership with the US, withdraw from ALBA, possibly subject to revision the Petrocaribe agreement, and dump its ambitious plans for international financial assistance. Venezuela would switch transactions with Cuba in the energy sphere to an ideologically neutral, purely commercial mode, thereby dealing a heavy blow to the economy of the latter. Caracas would opt out of military-technical cooperation with Russia. Some of MUD leaders do advocate an economic engagement with China, albeit of limited proportions that would not be drawing Washington's ire. The cooperation with Brazil will continue since cultivating the economies of the Bolívar and Amazonas states simply has to be Venezuela's priority. The privatization of the country's oil reserves will be put back on Venezuela's economic agenda.
Chavez said he expects to fully recover and retake an active role in politics in December. He has 9 months to brace for the most important elections in his whole life…