Taking the Measure of Celestially-Bestowed Follicle

I’m always slightly alarmed when I find out that Alejandro Tarre disagrees with me, because that’s usually a pretty reliable indicator that I got it wrong.

For Tarre, the key bit in the Mario Silva Tape isn’t that funny but ultimately trivial story about Maduro’s Sai Bobo side that I picked out, but rather the part about the coup Maduro came to believe – wrongly – that the Defence Minister, Diego Molero, was planning against him.

The relevant bit starts at 12:16…

For Alejandro, the takeaway here is that Maduro must have been convinced a coup was imminent if he refused to even meet with his own defence minister. But that’s not quite what I get from it.

Now, as Tarre says, Silva comes across as a bit of a hay-talking blowhard. The guy’s all over the place, so interpretation is always problematic. But for me, the point of the coup story is what it says about Diosdado Cabello’s mastery of palace intrigue as a political weapon.

Let’s take it bit by bit. For Mario Silva, Admiral Molero is firmly one of the good-guys (which, coming from him, means that Molero is slavishly pro-Cuban). “Por algo el Comandante Chávez lo puso allí, y no puso a otro,” y’know?

For Diosdado, head of the anti-Cuban faction, having a Havana Club man sitting as defense minister is a problem. So Diosdado decides if he can’t have control of the armed forces he can at least hobble the occupant’s ability to work effectively with Maduro. And so, going through the first lady’s personal assistant, he puts about rumors that Molero’s planning a coup.

The kicker is that Diosdado does it so effectively, he manages to stop a twosome at that level – we’re talking the president of the republic and his defense minister, ferchrissake! – from even meeting each other!

Chávez clearly intended Molero and Maduro to work as a team, placing them at the center of the Cubans’ operational plan for running their big southern Puppet State. But Diosdado’s just good at this game: he doesn’t have to claim either of their scalps to keep these natural allies from cooperating effectively.

Where Tarre gets it right is in saying that, if you bracket all your values and suppress your gag reflex for a second, you almost have to admire the chutzpah Diosdado has taken to the task of resisting the complete Cuban takeover of the Venezuelan state.

It’s clearly, in fact evidently, not what Chávez wanted – which in itself makes it risky given the atmosphere of drooling founder-worship that chavismo has fostered. But Diosdado doesn’t care. He knows whatever power the Cubans have is, by definition, power he doesn’t have. And he’s not going to take that sitting down.