Mérida, November 12, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)– While campaigning in support of candidates for governor and mayor from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has threatened to use military force in several states if opposition leaders attempt to sabotage the political process during or after the November 23rd elections.
Monday, Chávez ordered the military to occupy the terminal of the airport in the city of Curúpano, Sucre state, on suspicion that Sucre Governor Ramón Martínez had denied a helicopter landing permit to the state oil company, PDVSA, for political reasons.
"Admiral Víctor Bellera, take over that airport for me," Chávez declared. "Do you realize how far this type of unpatriotic traitor will go?" he said, referring to Martínez.
During a PSUV campaign rally Sunday, Chávez said Martínez is plotting with other opposition leaders to claim electoral fraud and refuse to cede control of government offices if PSUV candidates win the elections.
"This disgusting traitorous mafia man is going to end up in jail!" said Chávez, "we are going to sweep him!"
Governor Martínez was elected in 2004 as a pro-Chávez governor, but joined the opposition when his party, Podemos, joined the opposition in late 2007. While Martinez is not running for re-election now, his party is supporting a candidate nominated by the opposition.
Responding to Chávez, Martínez said the president's comments are a sign of desperation because PSUV candidates in Sucre are lagging in the polls. Whether or not the PSUV wins, "I am going to respect the will of the people of the state of Sucre," he said.
"Here I am. Put me in jail, why don't they, it will only be physical because my mind and my thoughts will never be incarcerated. I am a democratic man who defends his values," said Martínez.
The governor also said the occupation of the airport violates the national constitution. Article 164 of the Constitution states that among the tasks that are under the "exclusive jurisdiction of the states" is "the maintenance, administration, and use of national highways and expressways, as well as commercial ports and airports, in coordination with the National Executive."
The mayor of Carúpano, José Regnault, said Chávez's decision was "extremely grave and irresponsible" because of "the form in which this type of decision is taken, in the heat of an electoral debate, lacking respect for legal administrative procedures."
PDVSA has increased its use of the airport and opened its own office in the terminal in recent years, but has not followed through on promised investments in the airport's maintainance, according to Regnault. The mayor added that the airport has continued functioning normally despite the military occupation.
The Chávez administration plans to build a new PDVSA headquarters and massive infrastructure in the state of Sucre to manage natural gas extraction off the coast, where large gas reserves are located. According to Chávez, the government's plan is to pipe gas directly into homes nation-wide for domestic use and to increase petro-chemical production for agricultural use.
Chávez has continuously denounced what he says are opposition plans to fabricate crisis and destabilization across the country in 2009 and to eventually overthrow the government with the help of Colombian paramilitaries, if they win in key states this month.
At a recent campaign rally in the state of Carabobo, Chávez said that if opposition mayors and governors are elected in and around Caracas, their efforts to sabotage the "Bolivarian Revolution" could make next year "a year of war," in which case he would deploy tanks to maintain control of the coastal state.
Chávez also said he would send the military to the western state of Zulia, where former presidential candidate Manuel Rosales is running for mayor of the state capital, Maracaibo, if destabilization occurs there. According to Chávez, opposition leaders in Zulia are planning to negate the results of the election and launch violent street protests if PSUV candidates win.
Opposition groups have launched violent street protests against the government in the run up to every election over the past four years, in all but one of which the pro-Chávez candidates have emerged victorious. Just the 2006 presidential elections, thousands of black T-shirts with the word "FRAUD" in white letters had already been printed and distributed to opposition groups.
In September, a plot by retired military officers to assassinate Chávez and overthrow the government was foiled, further intensifying the current election cycle.
"There are no small enemies. We are confronted with the North American Empire, and the oligarchy," Chávez declared during the rally in Carabobo.