December 14, 2007

Great Moments in Profound Reflection

Quico says: As the Suitcase Full'o'Cash scandal metastasizes, and Carlos Kauffman (another of Juan Carlos Zapata's publicly identified Bolibourgeois Idols) starts memorizing the water stain patterns on his jail cell's ceiling, I'm again struck that Venezuela has become a net importer of scandals: what we find out about Maletagate we'll find out only because the FBI is on it. Our own oversight institutions long ago got out of the business of, y'know, investigating stuff.

Come to think of it, we almost never hear from Venezuela's oversight bodies these days. As it turns out, the terms of office of the "Citizen's Branch" agency heads (Prosecutor General, Comptroller General and Human Rights Ombudsman) are about to expire, giving the all-Chavista National Assembly a sterling opportunity to demonstrate the depth of its post referendum loss reflection.

Personally, I didn't expect much: if there's one thing chavismo has demonstrated over the years is that they're allergic to oversight. I couldn't imagine these guys appointing non-partisan figures to such sensitive positions.

The powerful Fiscalía, in particular, is just too juicy a prize to hand off to someone who might not follow orders: jeepers, the wrong people could end up in jail! So the choice of the unabashedly fanatical Luisa Ortega Diaz to replace the stomach-turningly supine Isaías Rodríguez as Prosecutor General was not a surprise.

The new Human Rights Ombuds(wo)man, Gabriela Ramírez, is an unknown me, at any rate. All Google seems to know about her is she used to be a National Assembly member, was real concerned about that video game Mercenaries 2, and worked as the Sí referendum campaign's liaison with CNE. I don't suppose we should expect any sudden outbreaks of institutional autonomy on that front, but then the Defensoría is not a very powerful agency anyway.

What does surprise me is what they're doing with the Contraloría, an agency the 1999 constitution envisions as a GAO-style, non-partisan auditor: the front line in the fight against corruption.

Since 2000, the agency’s been in the hands of appalling partisan hack Clodosvaldo Russián, who has beaten out some stiff competition in the race to be remembered as Venezuela’s most useless Comptroller ever, concentrating his anemic investigative energies on digging into corruption allegations at opposition led state and local governments. This is a guy who thinks the real corruption problem in Venezuela is at the Chacao Mayor's Office, even as the Antonini Wilson demographic takes the looting of the res publica to the next level.

I honestly thought chavismo would put a more credible figure in the Contraloría at the end of Russián's term. Not out of any constitutionalist scruple, mind you, just for political reasons.

After all, disgust over corruption probably cost Chávez the referendum. Nothing disenchants NiNis and softcore chavistas more than the sense that the nation's wealth, their wealth, is being plundered by the well connected few. The revolution was supposed to be exactly about putting an end to that, wasn't it?

Think about it: how many of those 3 million + people who voted for Chávez in 2006 but didn't vote at all this year stayed home out of disgust over bolibourgeois corruption? Probably quite a few. And who is responsible for that, if not the Contralor?

Alas, not only is the National Assembly making a Sí campaign apparatchik Ombuds(wo)man, they've also decided to give Clodosvaldo Russián another term as Comptroller. (By my calculation, that'll make him 182 years old by the time he retires.)

The Assembly's message here is clear: "let us make two, three...many Antonini Wilsons!"

These appointments speak volumes about chavistas' staggering inability to process the message voters sent on Dec. 2nd. By now, their unconstitutionality is no longer news. But their political clumsiness surely is...