International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

December 13, 2002

December 13, 2002





** Venezuelan commentators are demanding Chavez's resignation, and a growing number reject any other option (dialogue, referendum, early elections) for resolving the crisis.

** In contrast to their disapproval of the attempted April coup, now onlookers outside Venezuela agree Chavez has lost his legitimacy and squandered the opportunity to "rectify his errors."

** Many regarded the "strengthening" civic strike as reflecting the "collective will" of the people.

** Observers fear Venezuela is on the verge of "chaos and anarchy" and view the situation as "irreversible;" some see military intervention a looming possibility if the oil strike continues.




Chavez labeled 'threat to democracy,' media call elimination of regime a 'patriotic duty'-- Venezuelan dailies across the spectrum, united in their collective contempt, insisted that nothing short of Chavez's "immediate" resignation would restore order.  Op-eds in conservative daily-of-record El Universal held that "no price is too remove him from power through democratic means" and the choice boiled down to Chavez or democracy.  "It's either his exit, or the death of the democratic republic," one writer warned.  Amid disapproval of Chavez in Latin outlets, Rio de Janeiro 's right-of-center O Globo judged he "has been seeking confrontation instead of consensus [and] insists on ruling as if he had taken power by force, not by vote."


Crisis at a 'breaking point,' peaceful outcome unlikely--  Many judged the situation as untenable.  The "massacre" of civilians at Altamira, "militarization" of Caracas, attacks on the media and national oil company PDVSA's joining the general strike strengthened the press's anti-Chavez resolve.  Nearly all, including a pro-government daily, accused Chavez of resorting to "terror practices" and "intimidation" while ignoring the will of the people.  Writers joined Mexico's business-oriented El Financiero in blaming the Chavez government for "preventing the conflict from being resolved democratically" and shared a Moscow daily's gloom that "a peaceful no longer possible."  Capturing the pessimism, Brazil's center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo judged that "the escalation of tensions" and " increasingly radical polarization...make a quick and bloodless outcome--as his resignation would be--very unlikely."


Onlookers admit referendum makes 'little sense' now-- Caracas' popular, pro-government Ultimas Noticias' faint appeal that "there was still time" to find some "minimum common ground" to resolve the crisis was drowned out by the critics.  Some pointed out that Chavez could still win in a new election.  Other observers lamented that while there was "little room for dialogue and peace efforts at this point," elections under OAS "supervision" were, as Chile's popular La Tercera suggested, the best "chance for a democratic solution." Emphasizing Venezuela's predicament, Madrid's conservative La Razon concluded: "It is unclear who from the opposition ranks would be able to pacify the country.  But new elections could at least stop the escalation.”

EDITOR:  Irene Marr


EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 50 reports from 12 countries, 10/13-12/12.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed by most recent date.




VENEZUELA:   "Nightmare"


Conservative, popular, anti-Chavez national 2001 held in an editorial (12/12): "It's very difficult, not to say impossible, for Chavez and his clique to understand that the country is submerged in a chaos product of his blindness and deafness.  They don't understand it because we have here a government that is not conventional; it is undemocratic....  It has declared itself 'revolutionary;' in the world there has never been a revolution that was peaceful and democratic.... No one respects you anymore, President Chavez, in Venezuela or around the world.  You no longer govern.  You have become a nightmare.  Resign; 85% of Venezuelans are asking you."


"The True Face"


Popular, pro-government Ultimas Noticias published an op-ed by political analyst Pompeyo Marquez (12/12):  "The vandalistic actions by the violent circles on December 9 against the media made evident once more the true face of the regime, and its intolerance, its way of conceiving 'popular mobilization,' its appeal to the lowest instincts to harass, assault and destroy in the way they did.... If before there were reasons enough to oppose this regime in a decided way, now these reasons have multiplied.... There are no reasons to waver.  Now is the time for firmness and combat."


"The Truth Hurts"


Popular pro-government Ultimas Noticias carried an op-ed by former Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma (12/12):  "The cowardly images we have seen of the attacks on the media have no precedent in Venezuela, except for the deaths produced at state television [in 1992] when the only coupster in this country [Chavez] made his burlesque attempt to seize power....  If it weren't for the media, we would not know the truth.  It's just that the truth hurts when the facts are so abominable. When the truth is corruption and poverty, when the truth is deceit and mockery of the entire country."


"Resignation Or Elections"


Conservative national daily-of-record El Universal published an op-ed by Fernando Ochoa Antich (12/12):  "Resignation or elections: this has been the great dilemma of the opposition.  The moderate sector has seen the electoral exit as the safest, most democratic path to overcome the nation's crisis....  The radical sector, with great political realism, has always proposed Chavez's resignation as the prerequisite to allow the country to move to an electoral solution.... The militarization of Caracas, the takeover of the Metropolitan Police and the attack on the march of governors and mayors made the move to a national strike obligatory.  It was impossible to avoid it.  I am sure that President Chavez foresaw this, convinced as he was that he had the power to easily defeat it....  The opposition's dilemma was resolved by Chavez himself.  The painful events in Altamira [the murders on Dec. 6] have clearly defined that the only possible way to resolve the national crisis is his immediate resignation.  The serious oil strike should force him to do so.  If it doesn't, there are circumstances of national security that will lead the Armed Forces to act."


"Military Mourning"


Conservative national daily-of-record El Universal carried an op-ed by Altamira dissident military leader Enrique Medina Gomez (12/12):  "Today, we in the Venezuelan military have too many reasons to lower our heads in shame and sadness....  What desperation for men of arms, experts in war, to not be able to defend the men and women victims of the assassination plot [in Altamira Dec. 6] by the government that years ago diverged from the constitution.... We are in deep mourning in the face of this [government's] desire to murder our country.  I am confident that there is no soldier of the country who, in his heart, does not have a profound sadness; and I am confident also that all soldiers are thinking the same thing: to unify peacefully but courageously, providing the support that civil society deserves so that a new, republic, democratic stage can begin."


"Against All Negotiation"


Conservative national daily-of-record El Universal ran an op-ed by Oswaldo Alvaro Paz stating (12/12):"The massacre of Altamira will pursue Chavez to the end of his days.  The spirit of liberty gathered around this plaza will never die.... Eliminating this regime is a patriotic duty....  The people know that their freedom and their lives are at risk.  It is either Chavez or democracy, dictatorship or freedom, dignity or submission.  He has to resign.  It is either his exit, or the death of the democratic Republic."


"The Terrible Cost Of Chavez"


Diego Bautista declared in an op-ed for conservative national daily-of-record El Universal (12/12):  "The organizers of the national civic strike have said in every possible way that what they want is for the government to agree, in a credible way, with Chavez's word committed to do so, to have an electoral solution soon. It is incomprehensible and unacceptable - laughable, really - that such an aspiration can be characterized as coupster, as terrorist, as fascist. But Chavez is determined to do the impossible and make the country pay any price to avoid losing power through elections.... Chavez is a real threat to Venezuelan democracy.  No price is too high if it must be paid to remove him from power through democratic means.... Chavez has to accept the will of the country to move forward with an election, and if he doesn't accept it, he must be made to.  The strike will remain in force, until he accepts this, or until the National Assembly shows itself able to oblige him, or until he resigns."


"Only Armed Power Will Have A Voice"


Centrist Caracas El Globo published an editorial arguing (12/11): "At the forefront of this strike are not political parties or unions; it is civil society, a thousand-headed monster that does not obey one order, but rather responds to a collective sentiment.  If organized leadership does not obtain satisfactory answers--the legislative power, the judicial power--the situation will be one of chaos and anarchy.  Once these are established, only armed power will have a voice." 


"He Has To Resign"


Conservative, anti-Chavez popular national 2001 editorialized (12/11): "Traditionally, general strikes tend to weaken with time.  That has not been the case, however, in Venezuela, where the national civic strike is strengthening with the addition of new factors of society.  Faced with Chavez's stubbornness, in closing off all paths that lead to a peaceful, democratic and constitutional solution, the strike grows more vigorous and society is determined to take it to its final consequences, in a civic manner, with flags and signs as its weapons, to obtain Chavez's resignation. This fight does not allow weakening.  We must remain in the street, without falling for provocations or resorting to violence.  But be careful, because the beast is wounded and that makes him dangerous.... President Chavez, if you still have any love for this country, though it seems you love Cuba more, resign.  The majority demands it."


"An Act Of Government"


An editorial in conservative national daily-of-record El Universal intoned (12/11): "The concerted, perfectly coordinated and simultaneously executed action by the violent circles against the media, beyond violating norms, laws and the Constitution itself, implies the baldfaced use of force and of state resources in the forming and maintaining of parastate forces.... The plan to surround TV stations and the nocturnal visits were known about from very early in the day.  The community radios, also financed by the government, never ceased broadcasting orders in Caracas and in regional cities.  And it wasn't some vague code; the message was - and is - clear and strong.  The so-called 'Operation Red Tide' is far from being a spontaneous and voluntary expression of the people.  It's evident that this was a massive mobilization of organized groups subordinate to a higher power which is none other than the government.... One thing is popular expression in the streets; another, very different, is an act by the government.  The Circles, already a part of the power structure, fall into the second category.  Irregularities such as this are some of the elements that fuel the conflict.  A healthy society rejects with all its force such deviations."


"The Lynching Of The Media"


Liberal national daily-of-record El Nacional insisted (12/11): "[After the 12/9 attacks on the media, OAS Secretary General] Gaviria could not conceal his stupor, and so he showed it, visibly upset soon after the media executives denounced the attacks to him.  These acts of intimidation are a violation of the Constitution....  The admission by the Interior Minister that these vandals are 'defenders' of the government convert them into delegates of the administration, fulfilling a task.  The National Assembly members who incited and led them cannot hide their responsibility as accomplices. Resorting to these terror practices reveals the danger of Chavez's revolutionary regime.  It has no scruples whatsoever in changing facts and resorting to the worst practices to repress the extraordinary demonstrations by citizens from around the country.... The lynchers of the revolution destroy and intimidate the media.  They want silence, impunity, totalitarianism.  The question is dramatic: How long can a country like Venezuela stand a government that abuses all our rights and our peace?  How long can we bear such shame?"


"Gaviria’s Mission Impossible”


Carlos Romero advised in the English-language Daily Journal (12/11): “The opposition, and all other sectors involved in the crisis must keep in mind that the majority of the armed forces pledge support to Chávez (more for his investure than for his former military leadership). A forced ouster could produce commotion in the marginal sectors and spark a civil war, with all its terrible foreseeable and unforeseeable consequences.”


 "Night Of Terror


Afternoon Tal Cual published an editorial stating (12/10): "Contrary to what one might think, the attacks on the media in some cities last night and the demonstrations at Caracas TV stations were not a sign of force, but rather evidence of the extreme weakness of the government.  The government is merely playing its final card: the ability to mobilize small groups of activists to carry out actions to harass and initimidate.  In each of the sites where there were Chavista mobilizations, we're talking about a few hundred people organized in brigades.  The detailed coordination of the timing of the arrival and withdrawal of the groups in Caracas shows it was a directed action.  [Interior Minister] Diosdado Cabello, later in the night, tried to justify the action by saying, 'The people are in the streets.'  No, those groups aren't the people....  What we saw was an operation perfectly planned and organized.  From Sunday, when Chavez' speech announced what would come last night.  He drew the line; Diosdado executed it.  When a regime reaches these extremes it's because it is drowning....  Nonetheless, its agony can be dangerous and lethal.  We mustn't kid ourselves.  The temptation of an apocolyptic twilight of the gods tends to go along with people who've lost touch with reality.  Still, there is still time yet to stop a social and political catastrophe.  To negotiate a fast electoral exit, one with democratic guarantees for ALL political sectors, to eliminate or reduce to a minimum possible the mutual fears of vengeance... is the only sensible option.  The ball is in the government's court.  This are various: the National Assembly, the Negotiation talks--and the Armed Forces."


"The Only Way Out"


Leading liberal daily-of-record El Nacional published a editorial (12/10): "As the human sea takes the streets of cities and towns, after eight days of waiting, the civic strike has widened and deepened especially in critical areas such as the energy sector, and has become an irreversible day.... The militarization of petroleum installations, tankers and refineries, brough about via violent practices in various cases, puts in danger the great legacy of the nation.  The soldiers have a serious responsibility and cannot act as simple robots controlled from a distance.  They have the responsibility of preserving the patrimony of Venezuelans....  The Government cannot hide its desperation, and calls on the military to resolve civilian matters.... One single cry rings out over the territory of Venezuela... the clamor of the people calling for the exit of Hugo Chavez from the presidency grows unstoppably.  The criminal acts of Dec. 6 [in the Altamira plaza] provoked a firm reaction from the populace.  These murders are testimony to the rejection to constitutional solutions....  The crisis has two alternatives - the president's immediate resignation or elections now.  It is not an ultimatum; it is a legitimate position.... In an hour of such graveness, there is no doubt that the president's resignation is the most convenient solution in the interests of all Venezuelans."


"There's Still Time"


Popular, pro-government Ultimas Noticias published an editorial (12/10):  "The country is going through critical moments, with too many factors aggravating the situation....  From the verbal and symbolic violence so easy to see on the street and on the TV, we are a step away from acts of material violence that would lead to an unstoppable diabolical spiral.  But there is still time to stop.  It's not at all easy....  But pressuring for immediate solutions can become a counterproductive factor.  Don't close in on a cornered adversary, says Sun Tzu.... If both sides are persuaded that any path other than negotiations will lead only to violence, there is nothing more logical than to hope from both sides, at the negotiation talks and in the National Assembly, will discuss a constitutional amendment and find some minimum common ground."


"The Resignation"


Conservative, sensationalist, anti-government 2001 editorialized (12/10): "The massacre in Altamira was the straw that broke the camel's back.... The people are no longer interested in elections; now they want and demand the president's resignation.... The majority of the population no longer wants Chavez in control of the nation's destiny.  And the government has no credibility.  They call for the president's resignation because they no longer believe in him.... The civic strike, far from weakening, is growing.  The paralyzation of PDVSA has no going back...  The country, Mr. President, is out of your hands.  You no longer govern. Mr. President, listen to the voice of the person who is still your wife, Marisabel....  Resign!"


"The Appeal To Heaven"


Central University professor Ricardo Combellas wrote an op-ed in liberal El Nacional stating (12/8):  "Putting obstacles in the way of the referendum is a desperate measure by a despotic and ungovernable regime subject to a process of inclement delegitimization.  Faced with such senselessness, regrettably not ruled out because of the government's blindness from hatred and unreason, there is no alternative for the people but to 'appeal to heaven,' though this time with the wrath with which one punishes a false prophet."


"A Straw In The Wind"


Guillermo Garcia Ponce, coordinator of the government's Revolutionary Political Command, wrote an op-ed in liberal El Nacional declaring (12/8):  "Chavez is merely the emblem of a revolution that he neither began nor could he turn off it he wanted to....  If it hadn't been Chavez, it would have been someone else....  The excluded ones, the poor and dispossessed, have found a leader: Chavez.  The lords of privilege of always have found their enemy: Chavez.  The confrontation between Chavez and his enemies has nothing in common with the rivalries of our history of the past century.  It is not a conflict between two bands from the same well; it is a contradiction profoundly rooted in Venezuela's social reality, in the contradiction between the poor and marginalized and those who have seized the riches of the country and the operators of the great imperial interests....  This young Venezuelan revolution, in spite of its errors and weaknesses, has values and principles that make it superior to the coupster minority and the international conspiracy.  These values and principles constitute the cornerstone of its victory."


"And Now?"


Gustavo Linares observed in conservative El Universal (12/8):  "If the government manages to survive these days of the strike, an enormous disappointment will descend over society, the immense majority of which is desperate because of the current regime.  What will we do now?  The answer is not simple, but at least there is one path not yet explored, and it's amazing that it wasn't chosen first: the constitutional amendment....  Already [Miranda state governor] Enrique Mendoza has supported this possibility of the constitutional amendment.  It would be almost the only path left, if the strike is insufficient."


"Military Repression"


Lawyer Juan Martin Echeverria wrote in conservative El Universal (12/8):  "It seizes one's attention that a general leads the repression in Chuao against citizens and reporters, attacking without previous negotiations and with extreme brutality.  When the rule is repression, the opposition ask for elections, unfurling the flag; the revolution answers with tear gas, flat-edged swords and rubber bullets.  The Democratic Coordinator claims that the Constitution is in effect; the government recognizes only force, and the Supreme Court, Prosecutors and People's Defender just cover things up.  The Interior Ministry takes over the Metropolitan Police and the National Assembly annuls the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.  The fact is that the national government is invading the powers of local government, the legislature is invading the power of the Citizens' Power and the judiciary, thereby violating articles 3 and 4 of the Democracy Charter, concerning the separation and independence of powers....  It's true that we must resolve our differences ourselves.  But international organizations cannot turn away and allow totalitarianism."


"The Media, Targets Of War"


Conservative sensationalist 2001 printed an editorial saying (12/9):  "Journalists and the media have become targets of war of the government, in the wake of President Chavez's message nationally broadcast last Dec. 5.  Without any justification whatsoever, on Dec. 4 the National Guard attacked reporters covering the Guard's dispersal of a demonstration.  The Guard hit them, kicked them, shot rubber bullets and teargas at the reporters. The Lara police allowed Chavista hordes to attack journalists covering an opposition march; one photographer was hit by two rocks that left him unconscious.  On Dec. 5 the Chavista circles of terror attacked reporters and buildings of "El Siglo" and "El Aragueno" in Maracay.  Reporters in Coro and Valencia have also been attacked by the Chavistas.  OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and the U.S. Embassy in Caracas energetically condemned these violent acts, unacceptable in a democracy.  But the government's aggression against the media is not surprising.  It's been the media that have unmasked the government's authoritarian objectives and dictatorial pretentions; that's why they've been declared military targets."


"More Fuel For The Fire"


Highly critical columnist Marta Colomina wrote an op-ed in conservative daily-of-record El Universal (12/8): "As television showed closed industries, the Pinocchio-nosed Labor Minister swore that 100% was open.  Chavez threw more wood on the fire by ordering the National Guard to fire mercilessly against the peaceful demonstrators in Chuao.  This savage militarism inflamed the strike.  The oil workers, who until that moment had hesitated, abandoned their work posts.... The end is near.  It's consoling to know that Chavez can continue to throw wood on the fire, but not gasoline." 


"Military Repression"


Lawyer Juan Martin Echeverria commented in an op-ed for conservative daily-of-record El Universal (12/8):"It seizes one's attention that a general leads the repression in Chuao against citizens and reporters, attacking without previous negotiations and with extreme brutality.  When the rule is repression, the opposition ask for elections, unfurling the flag; the revolution answers with tear gas, flat-edged swords and rubber bullets.  The Democratic Coordinator claims that the Constitution is in effect; the government recognizes only force, and the Supreme Court, Prosecutors and People's Defender just cover things up. The Interior Ministry takes over the Metropolitan Police and the National Assembly annuls the appointment of a Supreme Court justice.  The fact is that the national government is invading the powers of local government, the legislature is invading the power of the Citizens' Power and the judiciary, thereby violating articles 3 and 4 of the Democracy Charter, concerning the separation and independence of powers.... It's true that we must resolve our differences ourselves.  But international organizations cannot turn away and allow totalitarianism."


"The Strike Isn't Pretty"


Oil expert Alberto Quiros wrote in liberal daily-of-record El Nacional (12/8):  "The temptation to believe that this government makes mistakes [such as the National Guard's attacking the demonstrators in Chuao on Dec. 4] because it is totally incompetent and even politically autistic, would be an error that would cost the opposition greatly.  Let's consider a different interpretation.  The premise is that Chavez doesn't want a consultative referendum, or early elections, or a recall referendum.  What to do, then, faced with an opposition bigger every day?  For the government, there is no negotiation possible, since the final objective would always be Chavez's departure....  That's why it decided to militarize Caracas and takeover the Metropolitan Police.... All of this is meant to interrupt the negotiations."


BRAZIL: "Crisis In Venezuela"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo observed (12/10):  "It does not seem an exaggeration to say that Venezuela is on the verge of an institutional rupture....  There are signs that the conflict is worsening....  Chavez seems to have the support of some of the poorer sectors of the population and maintains control over the principal Armed Forces commanders. He is certainly a populist leader, but he became a legitimate president through the ballot box. On the other hand, those who oppose him have already shown that they will not hesitate in breaking with legality to make their opinion prevail. Since they have almost all the Venezuelan media backing them, they appear as the victims of a bloody dictator, and this is far from being true....  The best thing nations like Brazil can do to help Venezuela now is to perform a more active international mediation role. It is necessary to find a formula so that both sides agree to a non-violent and legal way to overcome the crisis."


"The Crisis in Venezuela"


Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo editorialized (12/10):  "Except for a very unlikely turnaround, the Venezuelan political crisis is expected to end with President Hugo Chavez's removal before the end of his constitutional mandate. If this seems certain, everything else is a doubt, beginning with when and how the Chavez administration will collapse....  The escalation of tensions in Venezuela as well as the increasingly radical polarization between those who support and who oppose the president make a quick and bloodless outcome--as his resignation would be--very unlikely."


"Against The Clock"


Right-of-center Rio de Janeiro-based O Globo opined (12/10):  "Venezuela is paralyzed by a general strike.  This time around organized protests of the opposition hit the oil industry - the core of the Venezuela's economy and one of the greatest world oil exporters....  And there is no sign of an understanding [between the parties]....  What other result could one expect from the style Chavez has adopted?  Since he emerged in the public life this retired colonel has been seeking confrontation instead of consensus.  He insists on ruling as if he had taken the power by force, not by vote....  Radicalization is the infallible formula to rupture any society.  It's the opposite example that developed democracies offer, where seeking consensus is the rule.  As facts indicate the division of Chavez' Venezuela is so deep that only an active mediation by friendly countries and international organizations like the OAS may prevent a violent outcome - something that democratic Latin America strongly rejects."


 "Venezuelan Impasse"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo (10/23) editorialized: "The launching of yet another general strike against President Hugo Chavez's administration shows that Venezuelan society remains deeply divided.... Chavez faces the opposition of a significant portion of businessmen and the middle class, several labor unions and all the media. The division is headed toward a true rupture.... The political impasse is far from being resolved.... The situation reminds one a bit of Central America in the 80s, when several nations were divided by civil wars.... It is probable that the parties are so worked up that it is no longer possible for the Venezuelans to find a road to mutual understanding by themselves. It is a case of trying to provide Venezuela with international mediation similar to that offered by the Contadora Group, which helped Nicaragua and El Salvador to end their civil wars. Chavez is a populist leader who on some occasions has veered dangerously close to [provoking] an institutional rupture, but he is the legitimate president and represents an important segment of the population. On the other hand, his adversaries attempted a coup that was fortunately averted. But the demands behind the attempt are real ones and may be expressed democratically.  While the impasse persists, all of Venezuela is losing."


"Dangerous Short Cut"


An editorial in right-of-center O Globo commented (10/13):  "It is as if the April 11 coup in Venezuela hadn't taken place.  President Hugo Chavez insists in his project to re-found a Republic as if  he is disposed of an overwhelming popularity and approval from the rest of  the world.  His opponents accuse him of planing to install dictatorship  and are trying to overthrow him....  What's even worse is that everything takes place ignoring the  institutions.... Chavez's bad performance and the social unrest illustrate the risk of  redeeming projects, of proposals for radical changes, of the exercise of direct democracy - in which president and opponents use the crowds as  instrument of pressure.  And confirm that there are no short cuts outside  of  improving institutions, for prosperity and social justice.


MEXICO:  "An Unexemplary Caudillo"


Bruno Ferrari wrote in business-oriented Financiero (12/11):  "A short time ago, fate offered (Chavez) a wonderful opportunity to rectify his errors after the failed coup d'etat.  However, Chavez failed to learn from this experience and...he became even more arrogant.  This experience...makes him consider himself omnipotent.  A few months later, the situation appears to be growing worse, because the public is tired of hollow speeches and unfulfilled promises.  Despite the fact that the people have taken to the streets, the government continues to prevent the conflict from being resolved democratically.  The person to suffer the defeat will not be Chavez; instead the people of Venezuela will suffer the consequences of this increasingly regrettable chapter of its history." 


CHILE:  "Critical Moments For Venezuela"


Government-owned, editorially independent Santiago-based La Nacion asserted (12/10):  "The general strike against the government of Hugo Chavez entered its ninth day in an environment of extreme violence that has already cost several lives and threatens to lead to a new outbreak of violence....  What is happening in Venezuela is a merciless test of both sides, with all the dangers this entails for internal peace and institutional stability....  Unfortunately, the predominant political climate in Venezuela leaves little room for dialogue and peace efforts....  Let us hope there is still a chance to find a solution."


"A Fractured Venezuela"


Leading-circulation, popular Santiago-based La Tercera declared (12/10):  "The worsening situation (in Venezuela) and the eventual institutional collapse that could ensue...are not encouraging signals....  Political resistance to Chavez' government grows daily.  Military sectors and Venezuelan oil companies have joined, giving the conflict a very serious international economic connotation....  In sum, Venezuela's democratic stability is fragile, and the government is losing political control....  The call...for a referendum makes little sense at this point, but the chance to find a democratic solution by moving up the election under OAS supervision does."




Leading-circulation, popular La Tercera commented (10/16):  "The two recent demonstrations in Venezuela reflect the depth of the crisis in that country....  While the government views these demonstrations as an expression of democracy, the opposition and an important part of the international community believe they represent exactly the opposite: that the country has a high degree of social and political division and has become ungovernable...and that this could result in a new and deep institutional breakdown."


"Effervescence In Venezuela"


Conservative influential, Santiago newspaper of record, El Mercurio commented (10/15):  "Once again opposition to the regime of authoritarian president Hugo Chavez manifested itself in the streets of Caracas...  The two most recent demonstrations in that country show that the divide has even reached the armed forces.  More or less openly, civil-military alliances are being formed to oust Chavez, if possible via the constitution; that is, through resignation, an anticipated election or a referendum.


COLOMBIA: "Venezuelan Crisis At Breaking Point"


Cali based El Colombiano editorialized (12/11):  "The Venezuelan crisis is reaching its breaking point.  The effects of the strike in its oil industry might be the final detonator.  Calling for early elections, which is being proposed at the negotiating table, would be the right decision.  But for Chavez, this would have the taste of defeat which he is apparently unwilling to accept."


"Venezuela's Crisis"


The lead editorial in weekly El Espectador argued (10/13): "Any hope for national reconciliation in Venezuela... is completely gone... If there's any lesson for Colombia to learn from Venezuela's tough situation, it is about the harm caused by populist figures and the disappearance of political parties that are unable to modernize."


GUATEMALA: "Chavez Out!"


Influential morning El Periodico judged in its main editorial (12/11): "The situation has turned practically irreversible.  The intention is not a referendum to revoke (Chavez's presidential term), but rather the immediate departure of Chavez from power....  Chavez Out!  The people cry,  tired of anarchy, empty rhetoric, corruption, fraud, and the poison of resentment and rancor. Once again, it is confirmed that 'the voice of the people is the voice of God'


 “The Sad Lesson Of Venezuela”


Moderate, leading Prensa Libre noted (12/9):  “Morning has come to the Venezuelan people during the protests against a president who holds onto power despite a decrease in popularity, and who refuses for his regime to undergo a referendum that could shorten the long presidential term he established during times of greatest approval....  The only thing that other countries may to reject populist and defiant rhetoric that does nothing but destroy the few roots of Latin  American countries.”


PERU: "Venezuela:  Dictatorship Against The Media"


Straightforward, flagship El Comercio headlined its (12/12): “The situation of the media in Venezuela cannot be worse.…  We cannot tolerate that government officials support and even participate in acts...which not only violate the Venezuelan Constitution, but also threaten...freedom of expression, press and enterprise… Chavez himself encourages his supporters.… to accuse the media as coup-plotters… Doesn’t he know that government is at stake...when the freedom of expression is threatened?…We neither support a coup d’état nor...the characteristic intolerance...of dictatorships and false democracies.”


"Repulsive Violence In Venezuela"


Straightforward, flagship El Comercio editorialized (12/8): "Again, the political crisis in Venezuela is worsened by repulsive...actions of violence and crime... making it even more difficult to find a solution... The crimes should be exhaustively investigated in order to identify... and sanction those responsible...  Both the government and the opposition urgently need to continue the dialogue [process] and look for points of understanding....  Currently, the challenge is... reconciling the regime's and the opposition's radical positions on the date and scope of a referendum... This would be... the only... democratic way out."


"The Venezuelan Crisis"


Center-left La Republica observed (12/9):  "Again the crisis in Venezuela has reached... a very dangerous point... The Plaza Altamira attacks... have only worsened the crisis...The rallies show a polarized country... unwilling to dialogue... which, however, is the only solution to bring apparently irreconcilable positions closer... The solution ... should be a concerted political one... as a result of dialogue."




GERMANY: “Chavez At His End”


Business Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (12/11) judged: “The power struggle in Venezuela is balanced on a knife’s edge.  New elections are the only approach that promise a peaceful solution….  Chavez must now give in to make possible a non-violent solution for his country.  The conflict is getting all the more explosive, the deeper the country is sliding into a crisis.  Chavez lost his reputation because of a seven percent economic decline this year….  The populist is being supported only by the armed forces that consider his tirades against wealthy Venezuelans as a promise for more justice.  But Chavez will be unable to create greater justice.  The crisis has reached a stage that it will not even be resolved with his resignation.  It is unclear who from the opposition ranks would be able to pacify the country.  But new elections could at least stop the escalation.”


“Oil Pressure Is Increasing”


Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich noted (12/9):  “President Hugo Chavez was able to ignore the diverse mass rallies and strikes of the past months, but now the fuel of the nation is at issue: crude oil.  If the pressure at the oil-producing drills is reduced, pressure on Chavez will increase....  Since people have gone on strike at the state-run PDVSA oil company...the fifth biggest oil-exporter in the world is faced with a bottleneck which will intensify the economic crisis.  In addition, the United States is getting more nervous....  The armed forces will not be able to help Chavez on a permanent basis. Soldiers are unable to maintain pipelines and fill tankers.  In addition, the military is as divided as society....  The situation is getting more explosive day by day.  If Chavez wants to avoid a disaster with even more people killed, he must allow what the majority wants: new elections.”


“More Patience”


Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine declared (12/9):  “Government and opposition in Venezuela returned to the negotiating table. This is the only ray of hope in a conflict that seems to be unsolvable.  The pressure and the haste with which the opposition wants to force new elections is not understandable.  If there are early elections, the presumed election success could turn against the opposition.  The election winner could again be Chavez, since the opposition groups do not have a credible presidential candidate who could be recognized by all of them.  It is hardly understandable why the opposition does not show the patience to wait until August of next year to try to oust the president with a referendum for his ouster, something which the constitution allows and which even Chavez mentions as a way out.  Opposition fears that the president could have ruined the country by then are idle, since the government has been on the defensive for months and is only preoccupied with staying in power.  It would be much worse for Venezuela if Chavez were strengthened by elections.”


RUSSIA:  "And The Winner Is..."


Mikhail Zygar concluded in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (12/10):  "A peaceful solution to the conflict is no longer possible.   A crawling coup is gathering steam.   A continued strike spells an economic collapse, as well as a hike in the price of oil in the world.  While it is hard to say which of the two conflicting parties will take the upper hand, it is clear who is going to profit from the crisis.  To recover from the current debacle, Venezuela will have to boost oil exports, much to the delight of its chief client, who badly needs the fuel in the run-up to a war in Iraq."


"Oil Is Key To This All"


Natalia Gevorkian wrote in reformist business-oriented Kommersant (12/10):  "Chavez is most likely doomed.   Oil is the key to what is going on.   Venezuela has a big say in OPEC, and its Colonel is liked by the United States no better Iraq's Generalissimo.   Also, it seems like dilettantes' days in politics are gone."


ROMANIA:  "CIA Manipulates Turmoil In Venezuela"


Senior editor Razvan Voncu wrote in the pro-government Cronica Romana (12/9):  "What is really insulting for citizens to whom American propaganda is addressed, is the attempt to hide a sordid economic war, behind principles, whose stake is control over Gulf crude.  Even the Iranian-Iraqi conflict, and the Iraqi-Kuwaiti one are nothing but episodes of this war for crude....  In fact, the diversions against Iraq are not unique, and the CIA manipulates the permanent political turmoil in Venezuela, another big producer of crude."


SPAIN:  "Chavez Doesn't Listen to the People's Voice"


Conservative La Razon stressed (12/11): "Venezuela...needs a policy able to rearrange the country and finish with corruption. Chavez is not the right man for this [mission] and if he persists in his mistake he will be responsible for a bloodbath."


"Blood And Oil In Venezuela"


Conservative ABC wrote (12/7):  "Three factors could accelerate a clear exit from the Venezuelan soap opera....  The military...could definitely lose patience...[they] are only waiting for the other two factors to show signs of being fed up --the U.S. and the oil sector--in order to act....  The only option for avoiding this situation would be for Chavez to accept a referendum before the constitutional dates, that he himself designed.  Chavez could win the referendum.  Venezuela cannot continue losing."




PHILIPPINES: "Steal His Gas"


In his column in the independent Philippine Star  publisher Max Soliven commented (12/12):  "We'd better keep a sharp eye on the price and availability of oil....  Many suspect--and I share this suspicion -- that...Bush...will attack Iraq in January or February.... Alarm bells should also be ringing over the crisis in Venezuela.  Oil production in, which has 7.4 percent of the world's oil reserves, has virtually ground to a halt.  This is the offshoot of an escalating general strike....  Indeed, it is the battle over oil which highlights the current worldwide crisis.  As those aggressive bumper stickers now popular in America say about Saddam Insane: 'Kick his ass, steal his gas!'  Iraq's gas...may be the name of the game -- as Baghdad goes on shrilly declaring."



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