Friday, January 6, 2012

Former Venezuela Telecommunications Chief Back in Political Spotlight

One of President Hugo Chavez’s most important political allies, Diosdado Cabello, was voted in as President of the Venezuelan National Assembly on Thursday. As Dow Jones Newswires reports:

“Frequent shuffling of ranking government posts is not unusual in Venezuela. But Cabello's reemergence as a leading figure on the nation's political stage comes amid lingering speculation surrounding the hold on power of Chavez, who has sought treatment for cancer and faces a re-election bid later this year."

A military official who was involved in Chavez’s 1992 coup attempt, Cabello has held a series of government posts over the years, from Public Works Minister to director of Venezuela’s broadcasting regulatory body. While serving as telecommunications chief, he engineered the removal of cable channel RCTV, accused of using biased coverage to help incite the 2002 coup attempt against Chavez. In 2009, Cabello opened a probe into another major cable channel, Globovision, for reportedly broadcasting material which called for a coup.

Cabello was governor of Miranda state from 2004 to 2008 until he lost to opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Before this embarrassing loss, Cabello was long considered a top successor to Chavez. Cabello’s appointment to head the Assembly, after he was named Vice President of Chavez’s political party the PSUV in December, indicates that his political capital may be rising once again.

But as the Economist points out, Cabello’s resurrection comes amid a larger redistribution of power amid Chavez’s closest aides. The more radical socialists, including vice-president Elías Jaua, are increasingly sidelined in favor of figures like Cabello, who “represents a pragmatic alliance between elements of the army and business interests.”

Blog the Devil’s Excrement sees more ideological rivalries behind the Cabello appointment:

“Clearly, this was a victory for the “mercantile-anti-Cuban-military” side of Chavismo, led by Diosdado, over the “bolsas-loyal ideologues” of the Miranda front led by Jaua and the “pro-Cuban front” led by brother Adan and some military and the “suck-up to Hugo” group led by [Foreign Minister Nicolas] Maduro.”
With the Venezuelan opposition due to select a candidate during a political primary on February 12, it is hard not to see the Cabello appointment in relation to the upcoming presidential elections. Chavez will need support from military and business interests, and Cabello is the most obvious bridge between those two worlds. And as the Economist reports, he may also be a potential threat to Chavez during what is certain to be a dramatic election year.

News Briefs
  • The Miami Herald was the only major English-language newspaper to print an analysis of what Obama’s revised Defense Department strategy means for Latin America. The region is only mentioned once in the department’s 8-page list of priorities, alongside Africa. Unmentioned is whether the US Southern Command (Southcom) responsible for all US military activities in the Caribbean and South America, will see cutbacks; in fact, it is not mentioned once. This is probably not a reason to assume the US is planning to draw back from the region, as Bloggings by Boz explains.
  • The New York Times has a new article in its series on shifting migration patterns between the US and Mexico. “Mexicans, for example, are increasingly avoiding the United States and the border region, as well as their own capital, and are moving toward smaller, safer cities like Mérida, Oaxaca City and Querétaro,” the article notes.
  • The LA Times reports on a new proposed regulation from the White House which would allow some undocumented immigrants to remain in the US while applying for citizenship. Especially considering the record number of deportations registered during the Obama administration, the White House may be moving towards shoring up more Latin support in anticipation of the November elections.
  • Reuters summarizes efforts by the Felipe Calderon administration to persecute Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” of the Sinaloa Cartel.
  • The LA Times with an update on the truth commission created in Brazil in order to investigate murders and disappearances during the 1964-1985 military regime. The commission will not have the authority needed to collect evidence for trials; rather their findings are expected to “end an era of perceived impunity and secrecy for human rights abusers and help move the nation forward with boosted moral credibility.”
  • The trial against former Guatemalan President Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores, who stands accused of committing crimes against humanity for his role in the country's 1960-1996 civil war, has been indefinitely suspended due to his ailing health, reports the AP. This is a significant blow to efforts by public prosecutors to prosecute the intellectual authors of war crimes.
  • Americas Quarterly notes that President Chavez’s weekly television show “Alo Presidente” is set to resume on Sunday.
  • InSight Crime notes that even though Venezuela saw the arrest of several major drug traffickers last year, there is still significant evidence that corrupt elements of the military remain heavily involved in the drug trade.

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