-- Paul Simon --
Definition: to crap out: (in craps) a losing throw... Slang. to abandon a project, activity, etc., because of fear, cowardice, exhaustion, loss of enthusiasm, etc.
May 13, 1958. The earth was still warm. 95% of today´s C.I.A. agents were incontinent infants or yet to be born. Fidel Castro was seven months away from taking power.
Venezuela made a wake-up call that shook America from the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters. A Caracas crowd kicked and spat on the car of visiting Vice President Nixon. Anybody who was old enough at the time to read Life Magazine will never forget it.
The U.S. woke up, tore the phone out of the wall, yawned, went back to sleep.
1. On the death early this month of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, President Obama sent the following message to Venezuela:
"At this challenging time of President Hugo Chavez’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the Venezuelan people and its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government. As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights."
The coldness of Obama´s statement approaches -273 Celsius, i.e., absolute zero. His missive did not contain even the de rigueur expression of condolence to Chávez´s family.* Sorry, Obama and State Department: you still don´t have it right. We have seen your boorish behavior before, and recently, when Obama continued to drone on while the British National Anthem played.
Obama´s icy declaration was only the most recent faux pas in America´s zero diplomacy toward Venezuela. Our October 8, 2012 post on Chávez´s election victory observed:
"It can only be described as indecent exposure.
Hillary Clinton´s State Department did not congratulate Hugo Chávez for winning the election but rather congratulated Venezuela for a high turnout and generally peaceful voting ...
The Venezuelan election exposed ... the State Department´s ignorance of the most rudimentary election etiquette. After a free and fair election, you always congratulate the winner: period. Not to do so is more than undiplomatic; it is dangerous -- a stone rolled up on the edge of democracy.
I will say this of the old-school oligarchs I knew: they all had impeccable manners. Evidently, the archi-rich DDUUHH generation of today doesn´t know and could care less. Their sole instruction from all those private tutors: take the money and run."
2. After the standard Obama Waffle, the president picked a delegation to attend the Chávez funeral:
James Derham, who presently serves as Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat, and former U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrat.
Was this hurry-up offense of ad hoc diplomats appropriate? It depends on how diplomat is defined. Dr. George Voskopoulos, Senior Research Officer, South East European Research Centre (www.seerc.info), Sheffield University and City College, offered this insight:
"Diplomatic practice is such a demanding profession, that relatively few people can become successful diplomats... Normally they have a good knowledge of the culture of the country that is going to host them (this applies particular to western diplomats) and therefore they are aware of the cultural variables involved in the host country’s decision making policy system. These are the minimum requirements expected of the ideal diplomat who, ideally, must have both moral and intellectual qualities."
I won´t speculate on the Washingtonian trio´s moral qualities. As for the other minimum requirement, a knowledge of the culture, if you are tired of spit and kicks and want to get a solid belly laugh out of Venezuelans, have your favorite TV reporter corner Obama´s dignitaries and ask them the following two questions:
A. Manuela Sáenz was
1. La libertadora del libertador.
2. The richest woman in Latin America in 1800.
3. The wife of Simón Bolívar.
4. None of the above.
B. Simón Rodrìguez was
1. President of Venezuela, 1844-1862.
2. Leader of the failed anti-Chávez military coup in 2002.
3. Tutor and mentor of Simón Bolívar.
4. None of the above.
The cameras will tell you everything you need to know, and then some.
3. Washingtonians are whining about the Venezuelan constitutional stipulation that the upcoming presidential "elections need to be held in 30 days, which is an incredibly short timeframe." Obviously, the United States is comparing Venezuela´s system to the United States 2-year presidential election cycle.
First, to be precise, the official election campaign in Venezuela will run for 10 days, April 2 - April 11. Each candidate will have 4 minutes to campaign on television and 5 minutes on radio.
The mere mention of such constraints drives Washington D.C. campaign consultants wild; after all, any reduction in campaign duration threatens the megabucks they rake in via government contracts. Ditto the American media -- they could lose billions.
Second, what we are seeing In Venezuela right now is a textbook example of what we have noted on numerous occasions. Neither the C.I.A. nor its Washingtonian political consultants has the foggiest idea of how to run an election campaign.
To the contrary, Hugo Chávez and Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, understood the first rule of political campaigning: 95% of elections only confirm what is already in place. In other words, the real campaign takes place long before the official campaign is announced.
Ecuador´s February 17 election provides a classic case study. President Correa campaigned every day for years. Six of his seven opponents waited until the formal 42-day campaign season was announced to start electioneering, and got their heads handed to them in a basket.
The regular Venezuelan presidential election took place on October 7, 2012. Hugo Chávez defeated his opponent, Washington-backed Henrique Capriles, by 10% (see this blog, post of October 8). What that means in real life terms: contrary to what Washingtonians are saying, the election to replace Chávez is not too short. Capriles had six months to run an informal, real campaign. He did not do it.
Styleless and guileless: don´t look now, Henrique, but your C.I.A. minders are showing.
Third, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced there was a C.I.A. plot to murder Capriles and "create chaos in Venezuela." We noted in our prior post that, although the C.I.A. doesn´t know the first thing about political campaigns, "C.I.A. opponents had better not rejoice. The record also shows that when it fails to obtain its ends via democratic peaceful means, the C.I.A. resorts to undemocratic violent ones."
If Capriles (or Maduro) is murdered, his killers will be following a tired but tried and true script. In 1948, Colombian political leader Jorge Gaitán was assassinated during his presidential campaign. His death ignited the Bogotazo in which thousands of enraged citizens rioted and destroyed much of downtown Bogotá. 3,000-5,000 people died. The political subculture of La Violencia was born, which continues to wreak havoc in Colombia to this very day.
It seems that last week or so, an exasperated C.I.A. station chief read the results of a poll of Venezuelan voters, threw up his hands Holy shit! No way we can win! What to do?
What clearer case of a crap out could there possibly be than a C.I.A.-ordered political murder and a subsequent Caracasazo in which thousands of Venezuelans perish? For those who believe the C.I.A. would never concoct such an outrageous scheme, click here: "638 Ways to Kill Castro." An exploding mollusc, anyone?
Fourth and finally, nobody who recently has turned on a TV or opened a newspaper could have escaped the blizzard of media reports that Hugo Chávez illegally amassed $2 billion. We learn that his family led a "frenetic lifestyle" with a "fleet of Hummers" and jewels and trips and ...
Most of those reports cite the same source: Criminal Justice International Associates. Well, you had better check out their website. The chief is Jerry Brewer, "U.S. Government- trained COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT and practitioner, with extensive service to Latin America and the Middle East as an intelligence community operative."
Boys and girls of the C.I.A., here we go again ...
It´s Reality Therapy Time:
Ad hominem attacks, such as your Hummer jewel affair, are effective (sometimes) only at the start, not the end, of a political campaign. Otherwise, they are dismissed as last minute mud balls. That is true in spades when, due to death or injury, the targeted person cannot defend himself.
The campaign in question is not that of Nicolás Maduro but of Hugo Chávez´s legacy on which Maduro is running. C.I.A., you had all last year to release your $2 billion Hummer jewelry rip-off tip-off during the Chávez/Capriles election: where were you? You weren´t ... afraid, were you?
A classic illustration of a last minute mud ball: the leak in the final week of the 2000 campaign of George W. Bush´s drunken driving arrest in 1976. Al Gore´s campaign had the good sense to distance itself from the leak: "We had absolutely nothing to do with this." We will see if Capriles does likewise.
In the meantime, please, Dear Reader, do not hold your breath.
Not every candidate can win an election. But every candidate can lose one. Maduro is no exception. And so, Stan, or whatever your name is -- here is your new plan:
In order for Capriles to have a chance, he must offer, in a convincing and dramatic way, real solutions to Venezuela´s well-known economic problems. inflation at 22%, general shortages of 17% (40% in pharmaceutical drugs), unemployment at 8%, and other troubles commonly associated with a devalued currency. Real, concrete, specific solutions were the signature of my political campaigns; I refused to participate without them. No candidate who presented real solutions in an exciting, effective manner lost -- period.
P.S. Washingtonians, real solutions to not include more freebee megabucks to the oligarchy.
O.K., C.I.A., Pentagon, Barack Obama, State Department, President´s Council of Economic Advisers, Beltway think tanks, Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and silly-priced Washington election consultants working day and night to elect Capriles: it´s time to put on your plastic beanies.
This time, try to spin the propellers in the right direction.
*The day after Obama´s cold fish was delivered, an embarrassed State Department old-timer tried to cover the stench:
"In a conference call Wednesday, a senior State Department official clarified that the United States did want to express condolences to Chávez's family and express its sympathy, although apparently not from the president directly.
´We express our sympathies to his family and to the Venezuelan people,´ the official said. ´Frankly, the way I was raised, when somebody dies you always express condolences ... There's a family involved here, we sympathize with that.´"
The senior official refused to identify himself. Smart man.