October 5, 2002

"Today, we aborted a coup..."

If Enrique Tejera-Paris is the best the opposition can come up with for a coupster, man, we're all in trouble here. Last night, in a comando raid broadcast live on the State-run TV channel, about 20 intelligence officers swept down on the home of Enrique Tejera-Paris, the octogenarian former foreign minister and slightly kooky intellectual. Slightly bewildered and still wearing his pajamas, Tejera-Paris went on to give a very strange interview to the Channel 8 reporter, who more or less accused him of plotting a coup. The avuncular alleged coupster put on a display of absolutely flawless manners, answering the questions as though he had been invited to a morning talk show, and endearingly referring to his tormentor as "joven."

The Channel 8 guy pointed his camera at a big map of Caracas with the words "Solucion Final" scribbled across the top, which supposedly spelled out the evil plan for staging some riots to serve as an excuse for a putsch. Tejera-Paris said they'd been planted by the DISIP agents. By the afternoon Chavez was giving another grandiloquent speech, boasting about how his intelligence services had aborted yet another fascist conspiracy.

It's hard to know what to make of the whole story. For one thing, Tejera-Paris really is a sort of walking incarnation of all that is most distasteful about the old regime: a kind of amoral insider said to be knee-deep in some very murky business in connection with the Las Cristinas mine development in Bolivar State. (Inside story is he was hired by the Canadian junior miner Crystallex to tamper with some local land registry records to bolster Crystallex's claim to the mine...unconfirmable (but then Crystallex is now in bed with the chavista CVG...it gets complicated).)

That doesn't change the fact that Tejera Paris is old. Very old. Retired. Out of the game. Mayyyyybe he's pulling all sorts of strings behind the scenes. Sounds a little fanciful to me, but it's not impossible.

On the other hand, the entire way the government has dealt with this is just another typical concatenation of abuses of power, violations of due process, and political-propagandeering. The presence of the Channel 8 camera crew stinks to high-heaven...suggesting a complex propaganda ploy rather than a standard law enforcement operation. The whole mess will need to be added to the long list of bizarre events in Venezuela's contemporary history.