Posted: Monday, December 23, 2002
Venezuelan security forces have begun boarding oil tankers that have remained paralyzed due to the 3-week lockout-strike imposed by political opponents to President Hugo Chavez Frias.
Striking Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) employees who do not turn up for work today will be declared in breach of their labor contract, will face summary dismissal and possible criminal sabotage charges.
Military Intelligence reports say opposition elements are growing desperate as the "El Paro" disintegrates and that they are capable of anything ... including booby-trapping the oil tankers to cause maximum environmental damage or explosions as Army boarding parties take over the ships. "They are really crazy now," a senior government official told VHeadline.com Venezuela. "We're taking the threats seriously ... they believe they have nothing to lose and, although we don't think they want to die for their cause, we have to take the eventuality into consideration."
There are increased fears that the US CIA or other covert intelligence agencies may already have advanced plans to assassinate President Hugo Chavez Frias and security around the person of the Head of State has been increased substantially in recent days.
In the event of a successful bid on the President's life, Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel would immediately step into his shoes under terms enshrined in the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution and it is seen as most likely that he (Rangel) would appoint current Interior & Justice Minister Diosdado Cabello as Vice President to see out the remainder of President Chavez Frias' Presidential mandate.
Even if a non-binding referendum were to be set in motion it is seen as unlikely that it could possibly meet a projected February 2 deadline and would logistically be more likely held in April or May. Further to that, in the event that President Hugo Chavez would not win approval by a majority of the voters in any such election, he could simply refuse to recognize the result and shift the question forward to a binding referendum bote which could be scheduled only in August 2003. Only at that juncture, the whole process of setting up a referendum (estimated to take at least two months to prepare) would only begin, thus scheduling any referendum date for October 2003. THEN ... if the vote went against the President, it would take a further process to remove him from power but fresh elections would necessarily have to be incurred to elect a new President and government.
ERGO: apart from a bloody overthrow of the democratically-elected President of Venezuela, political analysts concur that Chavez Frias will remain in power for at least another year, perhaps more.