Wow. Just wow. In the time it takes to give a single, nitro-charged press conference, the Luis Velásquez Alvaray Affaire has morphed into the Mother of All Scandals, the Meta-scandal that all the little scandals fit into. The LVA Affaire is to Chavez-era scandals what Ronaldinho is to football. You can blog for years waiting for a story like this to break. When it does, it's so rich, so multilayered, you barely know where to start digging into it. Just wow...
First off, it's now clear that, as head of the Judicial System's Managing Authority (DEM), Magistrate Velásquez Alvaray had access to a motherload of compromising information about regime higher ups. Much of it is in the form of audio tapes - the first two of which he played at the red hot press conference he called yesterday. It's also clear that he's willing to make a lot of the remaining tapes public if the regime keeps investigating him.
This situation provides a rare window into the inner workings of the bolikleptocracy. In the absence of working institutional mechanisms for accountability and transparency, big dust-ups between insiders become the only way we get a chance to peer into the opaque inner workings of the regime.
Among the minor jewels of yesterday's incendiary press conference, Velásquez Alvaray asked why there has been no investigation on the sudden wealth of a number of regime financiers, including Pedro Torres Ciliberto, Arné Chacón, Maikel Moreno and...wait for it...Julio Makarem. That's right, Mr. Makarem of North American Opinion Research fame, the guy who took out a giant full-page ad to threaten and intimidate Alek Boyd and the rest of us for writing about NAOR, is apparently one of the major regime money-men...and to think we doubted his polls!
But that's just one of the less explosive bits out yesterday's Superfly-Motherfuckin'-TNT of a press conference. LVA went on to confirm, again, that the court system is controlled by the "Band of Midgets" - or, erm, the height challenged - with strong links to drug trafficking and at the very least the tacit support of Vicepresident JVR, National Assembly Chair Nicolás Maduro, and Interior Minister Jesse Chacón. The official line, incidentally, is still that all this stuff about Midget Judges is a kind of urban legend.
I think the point-of-no-return was reached when Velásquez Alvaray took aim directly at Vicepresident José Vicente Rangel - the power behind Chávez's throne, and a guy who's increasingly looking like our little, home-raised Montesinos.
After playing a taped phone call where chavista convicted-murderer-turned-judge Maikel Moreno asks the head of the Supreme Tribunal's Penal Hall for a drug trafficker's release on behalf of "el vice," and another of Rangel himself trying to get a "loose canon" judge taken off of the Danilo Anderson murder "investigation", Velásquez Alvaray asked, "rhetorically," why it might be that Rangel is so single-mindedly concerned with the Anderson case.
He didn't quite say it, but a buen entendedor pocas palabras. Even at this late stage, LVA is still playing this sordid little game of implicit blackmail, mixing in serious allegations with broad hints at much worse stuff to come. At his Improvised Explosive Device of a press conference, the guy danced very close to the edge of a very deep precipice, signalling his willingness to incriminate the VP in the most sensational murder of Venezuela's recent history.
My sense is that he's already gone too far to pull back: Rangel just can't go easy on a guy who's said the things LVA's said, and anyone who's seen The Godfather understands why. But then, the gangland-calculus may not be all that clear for Rangel. Yesterday Velásquez Alvaray said he had "many more recordings" and added explicitly that even if he's killed the remaining audio tapes will come out. LVA has learned the lessons of the Anderson Case well - had he taken that basic precaution, Danilo might still be among us.
Rangel is in a difficult position: he can't be sure what's on the remaining tapes, how much damage they could do, or if they even exist. Maybe it's just a bluff, maybe LVA played his best tapes yesterday to try to psych them out into thinking there's worse to come. Or maybe LVA is sitting on some sort of a smoking-gun tape linking JVR directly with the Anderson Case. Who can tell?
Those are, of course, imponderables. What we do know is that the LVA Meta-scandal is becoming the Venezuelan equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act. All the information coming out is stuff we've presumed existed for years but had no way of accessing. Only when the internecine squabbling between chavista factions gets really really hairy does stuff like this see the light of day. And then, amid the fury of back-and-forth accusations, we get to cash in. Finally we get some sort of handle on the behind-the-scenes intrigues that are the bread-and-butter of intra-regime politics, but which are hidden from public scrutiny in the usual run of affairs.
Eva Golinger had FOIA, we have LVA...