Having spent considerable time in Venezuela while cruising in the eastern Caribbean, ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ has been following with interest the recent political situation there and has what one could describe as "bad vibes". Most Americans are aware that the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has no love for the United States even though he cloaks his vitriol in "anti Bush" rhetoric in order to gain legitimacy with the American left. He appears to see himself as the heir to the soon to be departed Fidel Castro as the hemisphere's "yanqui baiter". What most in the US are unaware of is the increasing heat of the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election which will take place on 03 December 2006. Since coming to power in 1998 Chavez and his political allies have fully socialized the huge Venezuelan oil and gas industry PDVSA which does business in the US as CITGO and fired most of the employees whom they regarded as opposing the further sovietization of the Venezuelan economy. Many of these former employees although well educated have suffered substantial economic hardship.
The opposition candidate who seems to be gaining public support is Manuel Rosales, a maracucho (from the western district near Lake Maracaibo) who drew huge crowds to his march/rally in Caracas on 04 November. The Chavez government's reaction to this support for Rosales appears to be thinly veiled threats which ring eerily of the political intimidation engaged in by the National Socialists under herr Hitler in Germany in the period 1928 1938. Recent speeches and comments by Chavez and his associates raise the specter of two possible outcomes of the 03 December polling: 1) massive election fraud resulting in an overwhelming Chavista victory or; 2) a declaration of a "state of emergency" following a Chavista defeat with its concomitant refusal to surrender power to a victorious Rosales.
For those in the nether parts of the western hemisphere, you should be aware that Venezuela sits atop the largest deposit of proven petroleum reserves in North and South America. An excellent source of reporting on the situation is here. Stay tuned.