May 14, 2004

Is this an ambiguous sentence?

CNE recall regulations, artitcle 31...

...el elector que alegue que no firmó la planilla, podrá acudir al Consejo Nacional Electoral a los fines de solicitar su exclusión inmediata del cómputo de las firmas..."

"...electors who allege that they did not sign the petition form may go to the National Electoral Council to petition their immediate exclusion from the signature tally..."

Is this a difficult statement? Do you find it confusing? Ambiguous? Open to interpretation? Grab the nearest 11 year old, read it to him. Did he understand? Was he confused? What part of "electors who allege they did not sign the petition" is hard to understand?

Please note that it was the current CNE itself that drafted and approved article 31. Now, lets look at what Carter Center/OAS actually had to say about it:
"We understand that the purpose of the reparo period, established by the CNE in the current regulations (Article 31 of the Reparo Regulation dated Sept. 25) is to guarantee the citizens' free expression of will. These regulations establish that individuals who have had their signature invalidated due to a material error by the CNE during the verification can now include their signature as valid, and those who allege that they did not sign can exclude and invalidate their signature. In both cases, the goal is to avoid new verifications, and the simple manifestation of the citizen is sufficient. Thus, according to the CNE regulations and all international standards, the act of petition signing-the same as the act of voting-is a singular expression of will that cannot be subsequently changed during the reparos."

"Both the OAS and The Carter Center are deeply concerned by reports of intimidation of signers. We reiterate that each individual signer should be able to freely exercise his/her right to reparo, without harassment or coercion, whether it is exercised directly, or indirectly through the deprivation of rights or benefits to which all should have equal access."

When the opposition made this point, we were ignored. When Carter Center/OAS make it, they're threatened with expulsion. CNE insists that the opposition agreed to a new set of reparo regulations that means anyone can withdraw their signatures without having to answer questions, meaning people who did intentionally sign will be able to "repent" and withdraw their signatures. Is that what article 31 says? Read it carefully, one more time. Is it alarming that Carter Center and the OAS are being threatened with expulsion for saying out loud what is plainly evident?

Happy Birthday, Andrés!

Cardinale turns 41 today!...I propose a comments debate about how to cheer him up...

(Incidentally, no more blogging from me until next week - too much schoolwork!)

Before leaving, though, I'll put up one last thing: the masterful Editorial from yesterday's TalCual:

Castro and Chavez

Yesterday during his televised speech, Chavez recalled El "Mocho" Hernandez, a general from our 19th century civil wars who, though he was an enemy of then president Cipriano Castro, nevertheless joined with him when German and Italian navy ships attacked Venezuelan ports, in 1903, with the pretext of collecting on overdue debts. Chavez said he wished he had an opposition like that, able to close ranks with the government when an external threat to our sovereignty arises.

In his peculiar way of interpreting our past, Chavez forgot a "little detail": when the foreign ships started to shell Maracaibo and Puerto Cabello, President Castro (Cipriano, of course), didn't rush out to accuse "Mocho" Hernandez of siding with the aggressors. Instead, he called for the whole nation to unite to face down that rank imperialist operation.

But what did Chavez do? Exactly the opposite. They had not even finished jailing the Colombian mercenaries and already he, (Infrastructure Minister) Diosdado Cabello, (congressmen) Barreto, Tarek and Lara and any number of other government opinion peddlers, as well as the state TV channel, rushed to blame the Coordinadora Democratica. Unlike Cipriano Castro, Chavez made the incident a new chapter in his confrontation with those who oppose him and, faced with such an obscene manipulation, it was not hard to conclude that the whole episode had been a frame-up to obstruct, or even stop the reparos process and the organization of a recall vote. If the government treated with such levity a matter so obviously grave, if Chavez thinks that confronting the Coordinadora is more important than the presence of the "insolent boot of the foreigner", why should the democratic opposition take on the matter ignoring the abusive attacks it has been subjected to?

It has been the government itself that's made a mockery of this matter. Not just because it didn't provide a single official, detailed account of the facts and the way the arrests were carried out, but because of its spokespeople explained the events in a way that inevitably called up the sturdy jokester spirit of this nation. When the ineffable Lucas Rincon considers that some cachitos are an important clue, whose presence from Chacao and Baruta bakeries make them suspicious, how could Venezuelan humor fail to christen the whole episode "Bay of Cachitos" [Bahia de los Cachitos - a play on the Bay of Pigs - "Bahia de los Cochinos"]? How can Chavez expect to be taken seriously when Rangel affirms, with his best poker face, that the fact that the Metropolitan Police was on the spot merely hints at some kind of stitch-up with the mercenaries? They left so many loose ends that, fully justifiably, skepticism took hold of the country. So much so that they made doubters even out of those of us who barely doubt that ultra right-wing sectors in Venezuela are capable of hatching such demented and stupid plots involving foreign mercenaries.

Meanwhile, a curious and significant detail: the investigations and raids continue, but not precisely on Coordinadora targets. Will the government apologize for the baseless attacks it launched against it?

One addendum: In 1903, when Venezuela was blockaded and shelled by European powers, it was the United States that stepped in to assert the Monroe Doctrine and kick the Europeans out. Similarly, in 1899, it was the US that pressured the Court of Arbitration in Paris to allow Venezuela to keep El Callao and the navigation rights to the Orinoco River during the arbitration dispute over El Esequibo - which contrary to popular belief was a draw between the UK and Venezuela, not a British drubbing (because we kept those two key strategic assets - El Callao with its gold, and control over the mouth of the Orinoco.)

This is what used to be called "Venezuelan Exceptionalism" - almost alone in Latin America, Venezuela has never been invaded by the US, never seen a US-led military operation on home soil, and when the US has intervened (1899, 1903, 1960-61) it has been to help Venezuelan governments deal with outside threats. I think this is an important reason why US-bashing is such a barren strategy in Venezuela. We're not Guatemala, or Haiti or Colombia - people are not viscerally anti-yankee simply because the gringos have never screwed us in the way they've screwed some of our neighbors.

May 13, 2004

The speck in your neighbor's eye...

Excerpts from yesterday's front-page editorial from TalCualDigital, translated by ft.

Faced with an event as grave as the arrest of these [alleged Colombian paramilitaries], how did the government react? Did it provide precise information about those who might be responsible for the presence of so many alleged paramilitaries? Or, supposing it didn't have such information, did it announce that it would disclose the information in the coming days, without rushing to speculate? No! From the start it raced to make far-fetched and generic accusations, without any sort of grounding, against the Coordinadora Democratica, going as far as to accuse Enrique Mendoza by name.

The cheap politicking surrounding what ought to have been a most serious allegation immediately set off the suspicion that it could all be a show, a set-up meant explicitly to damage the forces of democracy - all, coincidentally, just two weeks before the reparos.

So if anyone should stand accused of not taking this matter seriously, it's the government itself. It was the government that turned this very serious matter into a show, a parody. It was Chavez supporters who first made a mockery of this affair, starting with the president himself, who with characteristic recklessness repeated irresponsible allegations against political groups the government knows full well are not involved in subversive activities.

Democratic Venezuela condemns and rejects the use of foreign mercenaries to promote violence.

But what might have been the near unanimous condemnation against such loathsome behavior was pre-empted by the government with an attitude that could only stir legitimate doubts about the veracity of the fact.

In a country full of joke-tellers, one cannot present to the public a matter of such gravity side-by-side, for instance, with the picturesque guesswork of Lucas Rincon regarding the subversive threat represented by some cachitos.

May 12, 2004

Carter Center, OAS to Observe Recall Reparo Period in Venezuela

Carter Center/OAS Statement, May 12, 2004

CARACAS, VENEZUELA - The Organization of American States and The Carter Center will observe the two scheduled reparos (recall signatures corrections) processes in Venezuela, May 21-23 and May 28-30. This observation occurs at the invitation of the National Electoral Council (CNE) and in the context of the Accord of May 2003. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and O.A.S. Secretary General Cesar Gaviria will lead the observation mission and will arrive in the country on May 29th to be present for the conclusion of the reparos.

The OAS and The Carter Center plan on deploying a joint mission of more than 100 international observers. Observers will be deployed in and around Caracas and many other cities, providing a strong international presence around the country. The joint mission will conduct a "quick count" -- a statistical projection of the results based on observing the count of signatures each night in a statistically representative number of centers. This quick count will provide independent information to the joint mission and to the CNE in order to corroborate the official results.

By authorization of the National Electoral Board, the mission, starting this week, will observe the Quality Control process and the development of the Electoral Notebooks and will have access to computer programs, the transmission of data, and the result totals directly in CNE headquarters. Observers will be present at the closings of the voting stations and, in addition, will receive copies of the actas. Furthermore, in the coming weeks, the joint mission will send several teams of observers to evaluate the pre-reparos environment in various cities located in the interior of the country.

We understand that the purpose of the reparo period, established by the CNE in the current regulations (Article 31 of the Reparo Regulation dated Sept. 25) is to guarantee the citizens' free expression of will. These regulations establish that individuals who have had their signature invalidated due to a material error by the CNE during the verification can now include their signature as valid, and those who allege that they did not sign can exclude and invalidate their signature. In both cases, the goal is to avoid new verifications, and the simple manifestation of the citizen is sufficient. Thus, according to the CNE regulations and all international standards, the act of petition signing-the same as the act of voting-is a singular expression of will that cannot be subsequently changed during the reparos.

Both the OAS and The Carter Center are deeply concerned by reports of intimidation of signers. We reiterate that each individual signer should be able to freely exercise his/her right to reparo, without harassment or coercion, whether it is exercised directly, or indirectly through the deprivation of rights or benefits to which all should have equal access.

Finally, in light of the growing tensions, we urge all political forces, social actors, media, and the population in general to demonstrate to the world in the coming weeks the strength of the democratic spirit and the desire for peaceful coexistence among Venezuelans. We reiterate our promise to continue working together with the authorities and all political actors to strengthen democracy in Venezuela.

Poll results

From a GQR poll of over 1100 respondents in face-to-face interviews, carried out in the last five days of April.

Comments software went down...

...took down the whole site with it. Apologies. Mentadas de madre should go direct to Haloscan

Venezuela: Human rights under threat


All parties involved in the political conflict in Venezuela must show real commitment to respecting the rule of law if they are to break the violence cycle. In a new report launched today, Amnesty International highlights cases of excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment committed by security forces in the context of demonstrations that took place between February and March 2004 and raises serious questions about the commitment of key institutions to prevent and punish such abuses impartially.

At least 14 people died in these demonstrations in circumstances that have yet to be clarified. As many as 200 were wounded. Several of those detained were severely ill-treated or tortured by members of the security forces.

"Many demonstrations were violent with the use of barricades, stones, Molotov cocktails and in some cases, firearms," said Amnesty International. "However, the response of the security forces frequently involved excessive use of force, contributing to spiralling violence rather than preventing or controlling it."

Subsequent investigations to establish the facts around these alleged abuses have been slow and inadequate. "There are serious questions about the commitment of key institutions to investigate and prevent human rights abuses impartially. Failure to ensure that these institutions carry out their duties effectively and impartially will weaken the fragile rule of law and fuel Venezuela's political crisis," added the human rights organization.


Senator Nelson's Speech: Visionary or blunderer?

I have to study today, so I'll just throw up this speech delivered to the US Senate by Bill Nelson, the Democrat from Florida. A few comments:

1-Nelson is gunning for that VP slot on the Kerry ticket, it's really obvious.

2-From the way he talks about Kerry's statement on Venezuela, it gives me the strong impression Kerry's and Nelson's staffs work closely together - it's almost like Nelson is taking credit for the statement.

3-On the one hand, Nelson's line is unconsciously neoimperialist, self-righteously interventionist, and plays right into Chavez's strategy, since it provides him with that necessary "enemy" on the other side - it's the same mistake Ike and JFK made with Fidel all those years ago, saving him by antagonizing him. On the other hand, the Chavistas will slur the US as the source of all their problems whether or not the US hits back, so why not hit back?

4-Nelson has become a "policy entrepreneur" in Washington with regard to Venezuela. This is his issue now, and he won't let go. A vicepresident Nelson would give Venezuela a level of attention in Washington it's never had before. This is either great or an utter disaster depending on your point of view.

Senator Nelson: Statesman or Space Cadet?

Speech delivered by Sen. Bill Nelson on the Senate floor - April 24, 2004

Mr. NELSON of Florida. - Madam President, while we are getting all of our ducks in order with regard to the procedure and there is this momentary lull in the consideration of the instant legislation, I rise to discuss conditions facing the United States with regard to an important neighbor of ours in this hemisphere; that is, Venezuela.

Venezuela is a country in deep crisis. I worry, as has been the case with so many of our neighbors to the south, that it is not getting enough attention in relation to this crisis. We all should know the President of Venezuela, President Chavez, is right now the subject of a petition drive aimed at holding a referendum on a recall of his Presidency. That is provided for under section 72 of the Venezuelan Constitution. What is also well known is President Chavez and his allies have done everything in their power to make it impossible to hold a legitimate referendum.

A week ago I was in Venezuela. I spoke to numerous officials of the Chavez government, including the Foreign Minister, the Energy Minister, the Vice President of the National Assembly. I also spoke to leaders of the opposition who have been leading the drive to hold a recall referendum under the provisions of the Venezuela Constitution. This is a recall on whether the President will continue in office.

In addition, I met with numerous business leaders from American companies, many in the energy sector, to hear their views on what is likely to happen to Venezuela, what is going to happen to Venezuela-United States relations, and what our policy should be there.

Everyone I spoke with recommended the United States must strongly support a negotiation led by the OAS and the Carter Center aimed at resolving disputes related to holding the referendum. Typically, this would not be a dispute. They have many more signatures than is required for the referendum. However, an objection has been raised that signatures are not accurate as to the people. That is easy to check.

I met with one of the mediators at the Carter Center who described to me the proposals his team and the OAS team had made to try to bridge the gap between the Chavez government and the opposition. When I asked if anyone outside of the government, any of the opposition in the business leaders actually think the Chavez government, and specifically President Chavez, will allow the continuation of this referendum to go forward, I got the same answer from all quarters. It was, ``No.''

Because of the way President Chavez has governed, because of the way he has tried to silence opponents, it is widely believed he will never allow the recall referendum to go forward. I hope he will hear this chorus of concern being expressed now from the Senate that under section 72 of the Venezuelan Constitution he should allow the process of democracy to work.

Much more...

May 11, 2004

The lowest form of mobocracy...

The web poll...

The capture of the Colombian paramilitaries...

"Looks like a piece of theater put on by high school students"
Has a kernel of truth, but is being manipulated for political purposes
Is mostly true, and the opposition is clutching at straws
Is entirely real and fully justifies the raids and arrests
Is too murky to even comment about, so why speculate?

Current Results

Free Web Polls

Sanity on the Paramilitaries

Well, it's still hard to know what to make about this whole hubbub. A few things we can say for sure:

With astonishing speed, the chavista propaganda machine has moved to twist and distort the story. The uncomfortable fact that opposition-led police forces were first on the scene and called in the chavista authorities is simply never mentioned in Chavista accounts. Video evidence or no video evidence, this particular event has been scrubbed from official history. This in itself speaks volumes about the government's iron determination to politicize and twist absolutely everything.

Attempts to link the Colombians to the Coordinadora Democratic look especially manipulative and indefensible - a blunt ploy to justify arrests and raids against opposition leaders. In short, even if - as seems possible - parts of the Bloque Democrático had a conspiracy to use Colombians to spark a coup against Chavez, the government has squandered the upper hand through its typical mix of selective vision, exaggeration, and plain old lying.

I'll save the reader the tedium of having to go through another impassioned plea for a credible impartial investigation we all know will never take place.

Venezuela: Headed Toward Civil War?

By the International Crisis Group

About ICG

Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and wealthiest member of the Community of Andean Nations (CAN), is in deep political crisis, with high risk that its democratic institutions could collapse, and some possibility of civil war.

During the first months of 2004, tension between the government of President Hugo Chavez and the political opposition, organized under the umbrella Democratic Coordinating Instance (Coordinadora Democratica, CD),[1] approached a breaking point. The Chavez administration's apparent determination to do everything in its power to block a recall referendum has angered growing sectors of society.

Between 27 February and 4 March, clashes between the national guard (GN) and opposition protesters left at least fourteen dead and close to 300 wounded. Torture, arbitrary detention and excessive use of force were reported.[2] There is a clear trend of increasing and unpunished human rights violations since President Chavez was inaugurated in 1999.[3] While the press has not been openly restricted, and several leading journals are vitriolic in their criticism, the government exerts multiple pressures on reporters, journalists and TV stations. Several opposition politicians who exercised their constitutional right to sign a petition for the president's recall have been arrested, and public employees reportedly were threatened with dismissal.[4]

Following the collection of recall signatures, the government-controlled National Electoral Council (CNE) entered into direct confrontation with the electoral chamber of the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, TSJ), which had declared the signatures valid and ordered the CNE to schedule the referendum.

Much more...

Compare and Contrast

Interior Minister Lucas Rincón and alterego muppet Sam the Eagle.

Opposition leader Pompeyo Márquez and his long lost twin, Waldorf

Bolivarianismo as Ideology

Excerpt from Ideology and Terror by Hannah Arendt.

An ideology is quite literally what its name indicates: it is the logic of an idea. Its subject matter is history, to which the "idea" is applied; the result of this application is not a body of statements about something what exists, but the unfolding of a process in constant change. The ideology treats the course of events as though it followed the same "law" as the logical exposition of its "idea." Ideologies pretend to know the mysteries of the whole historical process-the secrets of the past, the intricacies of the present, the uncertainties of the future-because of the logic inherent in their respective ideas.

Ideologies are historical, concerned with becoming and perishing, with the rise and fall of cultures, even if they try to explain history by some "law of nature." The word "race" in racism does not signify any genuine curiosity about the human races as a field for scientific exploration, but is the "idea" by which the movement of history is explained as one consistent process.

The "idea" of an ideology is an instrument of explanation. To an ideology, history does not appear in light of an idea, but as something that can be calculated by it. What fits the "idea" into this new role is its own "logic," that is a movement which is the consequence of the "idea" itself and needs no outside factor to set it into motion. Racism is the belief that there is a motion inherent in the very idea of race, just as deism is the belief that a motion is inherent in the very notion of God.

The movement of history and the logical process of this notion are supposed to correspond to each other, so that whatever happens, happens according to the logic of one "idea." However, the only possible movement in the realm of logic is the process of deduction from a premise.

As soon as logic is applied to an idea, this idea is transformed into a premise. Ideological world explanations performed this operation long before it became so eminently fruitful for totalitarian reasoning. The purely negative coercion of logic became "productive" so that a whole line of thought could be initiated, and forced upon the mind, by drawing conclusions in the manner of mere argumentation. This argumentative process could be interrupted neither by a new idea (which would have been another premise with a different set of consequences) nor by a new experience. Ideologies always assume that one idea is sufficient to explain everything in the development from the premise, and that no experience can teach anything because everything is comprehended in this consistent process of logical deduction.

The danger in exchanging the necessary insecurity of critical thinking for the total explanation of an ideology is not even so much the risk of falling for some usually vulgar, always uncritical assumption as of exchanging the freedom inherent in man?s capacity to think for the strait jacket of logic with which man can force himself almost as violently as he is forced by some outside power.

The "idea" of chavismo is not so hard to discern. Ever since Bolivar's time, Venezuela has seen a struggle between the forces of progress, social justice, and equality - bolivarianism - and the privileged enemies of that cause - the reactionary godos. Contemporary history is witnessing the long-delayed comeupance of the godos, and the final, irreversible victory of the Bolivarianos. "Accelerating" the development of this central idea is the point of chavismo. "This argumentative process cannot be interrupted either by a new idea or by a new experience."

May 10, 2004

How do you really know what you think is true really is true?

The latest scandalet in Caracs, over the government's discovery of a group of alleged opposition paramilitaries brought from Colombia, is a fine example of the strange way Venezuelan political life now boils down to a debate over epistemology.

As soon as the government made its claims and showed its TV footage, the response was automatic, unthinking, pavlovian. Reactions are hardwired into the political rhetoric of each of the sides, so they were fully predictable. A journalist could've written them up without much listening to what each side said; we've been down this road so many times before. The government and its supporters accepted the allegations as unquestionably true while the opposition rejected them, equally mechanically, as self-evidently bogus. Meanwhile, the other third or so of the country presumably shakes its head in disgust.

In a democracy, it's natural and healthty for political interpretations and opinions to diverge. But for a democracy, it's unnatural and unhealthy for our understandings of the facts, of what actually happened, to start to diverge systematically as well. People who can't agree about what happened can hardly be expected to establish a meaningful political dialogue. And it's this divergence over the factual bases for political debate that is one of the most striking features of Venezuela in the Chavez era.

Why has Venezuela settled into this pattern? What are the forces that have pushed us into this epistemological blind alley, where the sides cannot even agree any longer on the factual bases of what it is they're arguing about? And how do you rebuild the possibility for some kind of civilized interchange between people who can't agree with you about the facts, about what happened, let alone over the much thornier and "inherently contested" issue of the political interpretation of those facts?

Part of the problem for someone in my position is that, while I think it's crucial to rebuild the shared-understandings about the world that can serve as the basis for a sane discussion, my Conspiracy Theorist Mind (CTM) can't quite buy it, because my CTM is quite convinced that negating the possibility of a cross-class dialogue and understanding is part of the government's strategy. This is not a big leap for anyone who's listened to Chavez's radical class-baiting rhetoric, I should say. So again and again I find myself caught in the contradiction between my third-sidist instinct and a government that has spent five years diligently undermining the possibility of third-sidist solutions.

Generating information like the Baruta Paramilitary hubbub and handing it off only to pro-Chavez media (RNV, Venpres, Channel 8) deepens the epistemological gulf. The government must realize at this point that its PR management strategy deepens both the unquestioning credulity of supporters and the furious, damn-the-facts-my-mind-is-made-up incredulity of opponents. And when the government pursues these kinds of strategies consistently, again and again, for over five years, it's easy to conclude that widening the epistemological gulf is, in fact, part of the government's overall plan.

Shielding events like this from proper sceptical journalists willing to ask proper sceptical questions turns it into just another ritual in the chavista liturgy, just another presidential assertion that must be believed on faith rather than investigated on evidence. It's another item in the drip, drip, drip of pressures that are driving Venezuelans to see each other in hyper-simplified terms, as cardboard cutouts or political strawmen rather than complete human beings. As the epistemological gulf widens, the preconditions for a violent outcome are put into place more and more fully. How do you stop this pattern at this point? I have no clue.

But I know that we will not have peace and stability until the entire country can agree on one version of what actually happened, until the epistemological gap is bridged. This is why countries that go through deeply traumatic historical periods need Truth and Reconciliation Commissions afterwards. It's where Venezuela will end up for sure.

May 9, 2004

Owning up...

...Antonio Ledezma - like Cristina - doesn't exist. He's on Globo now ranting about how CNE cheated him out of his signature. It's understandable that Cristina and Antonio feel angry about this, but the P.R. line many (including, mea culpa, me) have used on this issue is misleading.

The reason most of these signatures "disappeared" - and do not show up in the reparable category - is that there was some kind of mistake or problem with the actas, the official daily tallies kept at each of the signing centers. Since the signing centers were run by opposition operatives and only supervised by CNE, Jorge Rodriguez says that the mistakes in the actas cannot be attributed to "material errors" by CNE, since CNE was not in charge. Moreover, Felipe Mujica and Quiroz Corradi knew full well this was what they were agreeing to when they agreed with CNE's reparo procedures two weeks ago.

So the opposition is being somewhat disingenuous when it heavily implies these signatures just vanished - they didn't they; were ruled invalid according to rules set out way the hell back in September 2003. In fact, this may be one of the only rules of the game CNE hasn't changed in the middle of the game.

But you can only take the rehabilitation of CNE so far. It stands to reason that if you're going to rule out categorically signatures whose actas had defects, you implicitly accept the acta as the prime arbiter of the validity of the signature - acta mata firma. The will of the signator is a secondary matter. These are just warmed over AD tactics that have now been co-opted by chavismo.

What's worse, even the acta-centric interpretation is applied unevenly, and plainly unfairly. If signatures accounted for in flawed actas are presumed to be invalid, how can it be that hundreds of thousands of other signatures, accounted for in flawless actas signed by everybody and their cousin, are not presumed to be valid? Either CNE trusts its own actas or it doesn't.

But, predictably, the government insists on having it both ways. CNE seems to act under the guiding principle that the government is from Jalisco, si no gana, empata. Actas constitute prima facie evidence when it suits the Chavez project to paint the opposition as fraudulent, but they don't constitute prima facie evidence when accepting them as such could work against the government's interests.

Actas are both binding and not-binding at the same time. CNE joins the campaign to scrub the legacy of Aristotle from Venezuelan public life.