Excerpts of column "Runrunes" (Rumors) of Tuesday, February 19
KNEEL ON THE GROUND. The return to Venezuela of President Hugo Chávez caught unawares not only those who do not embrace "the process," but also Chávez's supporters, except for Vice-President Nicolás Maduro, National Assembly (AN) Speaker Diosdado Cabello and his aids-de-camp. No cabinet member was apprised in advance. On Monday, February 18, (Anzoátegui state governor) Aristóbulo Istúriz avowed to it in his press conference. The flight was not on the Venezuelan presidential plane. Another aircraft that flew at a lower height to prevent high pressure in any event took him to Maiquetía. Under sedation, the reelected president traveled accompanied only by his oldest daughter Rosa Virginia, her husband, Minister of Science and Technology Jorge Arreaza, and the three doctors and five nurses who have taken care of him at Cimeq. Sure enough, a couple of aids-de-camp and military assistants also boarded the aircraft. In arriving in Venezuela, the patient was driven on an ambulance to a dedicated site in Tiuna Fort. On Monday, Luisa Estela Morales, the president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), said that everything was ready to have the Head of State reelected on October 7 sworn in. The pressure applied to the red government from several sides, labeling as illegal or unconstitutional the rushed decision of the TSJ to extend Chávez's term in office, has taken effect. Interestingly, perhaps China is most concerned because the business between the two countries weighs a lot on the relationship, and the political and economic leaders of the Asian giant have questioned quite a few times the events of January 10. Add to this that both Russia and other allies, including some Caribbean countries, Bolivia and Nicaragua, have requested their legal counsels some studies on the executed agreements. Two big countries asked gold as collateral to keep on sending cash in form of loans or advanced payment of future business. No matter their friendship and partnership, their institutions want to be assured of the validity of any instrument to be signed by Maduro in the future. Queries inside the militaries, communicated, among others, by Zulia state governor Francisco Arias Cárdenas and former Táchira state governor Ronald Blanco La Cruz, took effect. Also, the recent remarks of the students, who put the Cuban meddling up for discussion and whose demonstrations in front of the Cuban Embassy were news in the global press, made their input to the pressure against the regime, which information has been not at all true or timely. On Friday, February 8, when the photos of the caudillo lying on a chair together with his daughters at Cimeq ICU were released, and Minister of Communication and Information Ernesto Villegas conceded that the president had undergone a tracheotomy and had breathing problems, we thought that they were preparing us to declare absolute absence in the next few days. Will that be so? We will know it soon. In the meantime, it seems that they will keep the status quo before calling election. Incidentally, Fidel Castro's letter to Chávez apropos his departure from Cuba hints that Cuban doctors have treated Chávez for ten years (?).
IRAN & VENEZUELA 1. Last February 2, the US government meted out sanctions until 2015 to the Venezuelan Stock Corporation of Military Industries (Cavim) among a group of 12 foreign firms, including four Chinese companies, due to sale of arms and military technology to Iran, North Korea or Syria. According to the US Department of State, these companies infringed the Iran Non-Proliferation Act of 2000, which subsequently added North Korea (2006) and Syria (2005). The legal instrument is intended to prevent any of those countries from being in possession of weapons of mass destruction. In 2011, Washington imposed sanctions on Pdvsa due to oil agreements with Iran. The US government learned from Tehran about the interest of the Venezuelan government in setting up an Iranian naval base in Aves Island, the northernmost site in Venezuela. This has been brought forward following the discussions in Argentina upon an agreement with Iran to examine, in Iranian territory, the Iranian terrorists who blew up the Israeli- Argentine Mutual Society, AMIA, in 1994.
IRAN & ARGENTINA. Dante Caputo, the Argentinean Foreign Minister under the government of Raúl Alfonsín from 1986 to 1989, had his sight set on the Iranians' relations with Latin America. He slipped an assumption that links the project forwarded by the government of Cristina Kirchner with the two-month absence of President Hugo Chávez due to his illness. According to Caputo, Chávez was "a basic fringe," which allowed Argentina "keeping a very active relationship (with Iran), without having to pay too high an international cost." "Chávez's disappearance from the political scene requires a more direct activism from Argentina," the ex minister postulated. "Chávez does not hide his good, ideological, strategic and trade, relationship with Iran, regarded by him as one of the "revolutionary nations" in the world. Caputo joined the sectors that refuse the Argentinean government memo of understanding and lambasted Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman for pulling their legs." According to Caputo, "in the best case, we will be unable to bring in the country any of the suspects."
Translated by Conchita Delgado
President Nicolás Maduro is not only the heir to the throne, but also to an economic crisis which demanded urgent measures to rectify the course. The crisis showed up in two aspects: a 50% inflation estimate, and shortage of staples ranging between 70% and 98%. These issues might hit the President's poor popularity; considering his feeble electoral victory of 1% over his challenger.