Coup d’état by Chávez in Venezuela

The opposition to Hugo Chávez is accused him Wednesday of carrying out a coup d’état, due to the package of laws that he is ramming through the lame duck session that ends January 5th next year. The package includes an Enabling Act that makes the next congress mute – something that Hugo himself has made fun of by heckling them on TV. It also includes severe restrictions on free speech, the right of assembly, and the right to property. His partisans, the chavistas, have said that Venezuela will not be the same after January 1st, and that the revolution will be “hard” the next two years.

Since several days Colombia’s ex president Alvaro Uribe has denounced this coup d’état – a legal coup using the same methods that Adolf Hitler used in the Spring of 1933 – in Spanish language media. Wednesday evening Reuters became first among major English language media with the news.

The fact that this is being reported as a coup abroad has led Venezuelan tweeters to use the hashtag #GolpeEstadoVE to the degree that it climbed to a top position, which provoked the reaction below.

Reactions to the fact that "coup d'état" was a leading hashtag.
Reactions to the fact that "coup d'état" was a trend topic.

First “lubrio” wrote, “they put coup as Trend Topic… I’m afraid, they are at the verge of overthrowing Chávez, o God!” Judging from his avatar he is a hard core chavista. Last “sombrerorojo” (red hat) wrote, “Did you see? Coup is Trend Topic! -Are you serious? -Damn, today the tyrant will fall.”

While that may be a bit rash, there is a real possibility that he will fall within a week or two. However, it is largely in the hands of foreign leaders.

How, you ask? -Simple. If countries with which Venezuela has diplomatic relations state that what Chávez is doing in their opinion is a coup d’état, then the security forces of Venezuela (read: the military) will much, much more prone to arrest him than otherwise.

Consider Honduras, where a similar situation happened last year. Zelaya was carrying out a coup, but the world did not acknowledge it. So when he was arrested by the military the world called it a coup, even though they were acting on orders of the Supreme Court, and the vast majority of the Congress supported the action.

In Venezuela today neither the Congress nor the Court is going to back the military in such an act, since both those institutions are dominated by Chávez-supporters. The Congress is key in carrying out the unconstitutional acts, and the Court is hardly impartial.

The only thing the military in such an act can rely on is its independent interpretation of the Constitution. There are a number of different arguments that can be made for why deposing Chávez by military force would be justified, but they should not be litigated here. Let that be for a possible court case after the fact.

The bottom line is that it is largely in the hands of foreign leaders to decide the outcome of this; if Chávez will be as successful as Hitler, or if his coup plans will be foiled. So, please, denounce this coup for what it is: A coup.

Media: DN (Swedish)