London, 3.5.12 | The following is a series of stories I have heard in the last few days, and some thoughts, that signal that Venezuela is well and truly in the twilight zone. How long will it be in it, and how will it exit, continues to be anyone's guess.
- Eladio Aponte Aponte. Former chief of Venezuela's Supreme Court Penal chamber started negotiating his freedom in 2010, soon after the arrest of Walid Makled in Colombia. The first meeting he had with US law enforcement authorities (FBI) was in Spain. Recently, he escaped to Costa Rica, via Curazao, and from there the DEA took him to the US via Puerto Rico. There were fears that his life and freedom were in peril, after US authorities got wind that chavistas and Cuban G2s were dispatched to Costa Rica to get him before the yanks. Two high officials of the Chavez regime have helped Aponte Aponte all along: Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, current Governor of Vargas State, military man of unquestionable loyalty to Chavez, and Isaias Rodriguez, current Ambassador of Chavez in Italy.
- Another heavily compromised former chavista is about to confirm Aponte Aponte statements implicating the Chavez regime with drug trafficking. Nelson Bocaranda mentioned in today's article that the next former high official to appear singing in Eligio Cedeño's SoiTV is Luis Velásquez Alvaray, former chief of Venezuela's Supreme Court's Constitutional chamber. Velásquez Alvaray's statements could, potentially, armour plate the case against Chavez and his narcogenerals, which is what US law enforcement authorities want. Another name being mentioned is that of Hugo Carvajal, former chief of military intelligence (DIM). Feasibility to bring out of Venezuela other potential sources -close to Aponte Aponte- are being explored.
- There is a very odd, and quite inexplicable, Venezuela-related disinformation campaign going on in Washington DC. A group, formed by Roger Noriega, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under Bush, and Venezuelan citizens Martin Rodil, Esteban Gerbasi, Alberto Federico Ravel, and most probably the latter's partners Guillermo Zuloaga and Nelson Mezerhane funding the operation, have been talking to everyone willing to listen about information -which they claim they possess but haven't shown- that establishes links between Venezuela and Iran in uranium prospecting and exports (from Venezuela to Iran), joint Venezuela - Iran construction of missile base in Paraguana, involvement in Aponte Aponte's escape to Costa Rica and then to the US, involvement in getting US law enforcement agencies to deal with Aponte Aponte, and accusations against Venezuelan political refugee Eligio Cedeño in drug trafficking activities. The problem, for the group mentioned, is one of credibility, for to this date, individually or collectively, they have not shown one single piece of verifiable evidence to back up the claims listed above. Noriega, who had an important job under Bush and never gave a second thought to Venezuela, is pitching his unsubstantiated information to many a media outlet, information that, presumably, he is getting from Rodil, Gerbasi and Ravel. Eligio Cedeño has found himself at the receiving end of Noriega's sudden interest in Venezuela. It may be because Cedeño is the one who's been helping Aponte Aponte all along. It may be because Aponte Aponte came out of the chavista judiciary closet in an interview published by SoiTV, a company owned by Cedeño. It may because Cedeño has much better intel, of the goings on the chavista side, and has used it more effectively. It may be because there's a culebra between older Venezuelan money (Ravel, Zuloaga and Mezerhane) and Cedeño's Boliburgeoise fortune. It may be because Cedeño has long been a benefactor of politicos that may be disliked by the group led by Noriega. It may be because the Noriega group is jockeying for position in a future administration and Cedeño's efforts are exposing them as figures of ridicule. It may be because Cedeño has retained the counsel of Otto Reich, whom I am told Noriega despises with passion. Or it may be because Noriega et al are bunch of hapless idiots that are watching in dismay how Cedeño is outsmarting their every move. In any case, whether one or a combination or yet other reasons not mentioned are the true motives, Venezuela observers should be well advised in taking anything that comes from Roger Noriega and his informers with a rock of salt, unless, of course, he starts backing his claims with evidence.
- Junta. In his latest visit to Venezuela, the dying dictator appointed a bunch of unconditional fanatics to form a Council of State, read a Junta that, presumably, will rule Venezuela upon Chavez's death. The Junta is led by Elias Jaua and composed, mostly, by civilians. It remains to be seen how the equally radical fanatics on the military, led by Diosdado Cabello and other narcogenerals, will take this. This is not to say that the Junta is toothless. It is most probably well sourced with Cuban intelligence operatives, G2, factions within the army and urban militias. It is not lost, on some of us, that Jaua still works closely with Goizeder Odriozola and her ETA terrorist husband Arturo Cubillas, who has been accused of training both chavista militias and FARC terrorists.
- The opposition. As all these events rapidly unfold, the opposition is nowhere to be seen. The one doing something -Henrique Capriles Radonsky- has launched a presidential campaign, as if nothing is happening and presidential elections will take place on 7 October, as scheduled. Confirming earlier analysis, to the effect that in a power struggle among chavista factions there's absolutely nothing the opposition could do, but watch, Capriles Radonsky's name doesn't even get mentioned in conversations about Venezuela, and its immediate future after Chavez's death. Neither Capriles Radonsky nor any of the leading figures of the MUD have any political, military, or financial muscle to claim a place among the warring chavista factions, mere passengers in a speeding bus out of control. Capriles Radonsky's best bet, and only hope, is that Chavez decides to run, and so he can get on with the business of pretending to be the opposition's presidential candidate that will confront the dictator on 7 October. Should something happen to Chavez before then, as it seems to be more and more likely, it is doubtful that Capriles Radonsky will have any relevant role, or say, in the aftermath, until a clearer picture of who will rule on behalf of Chavez emerges. Should Chavez die before 7 October it is very unlikely that there'll be presidential "elections", as scheduled.