A year of shocking contrasts, from the oil spill in the Guarapiche river, Pastor Maldonado’s triumph in the F1 Grand Prix of Spain; the explosion at the Amuay Refinery which sadly left 48 dead and 156 wounded, as well as professional fencer Rubén Limardo’s victory in London’s Olympic Games, the second gold medal for Venezuela since “Morochito” Rodríguez in 1968.
The tropical storm Rafael and incessant rains, contrasted with the recognition of Diablos Danzantes declared as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. In 2012, Jimena Araya – aka Rosita – became notorious for collaborating with the escape of a pran (ganglord) of Tocorón prison, but also, the Miranda satellite was launched to space and Miguel Cabrera became the first Venezuelan to be named the Most Valuable Player of the American League. After holding several debates, with a format closer to an accord among gentlemen than to a confrontation of proposals and ideas, Miranda governor Henrique Capriles Radonski was chosen in primaries to run against Chávez in the presidential elections of October 7th.
His life in Cuban hands
We never knew the kind of cancer Chávez had, but the opacity surpassed the diagnosis and he travelled to Cuba more times than we could count. He beat his own record with his Accountability Speech before the National Assembly: nine hours and a half, which was also the longest cadena in his 13 years in power. It was in that cadena that he announced that the Consulate in Miami was to be shut down in retaliation for the expulsion of the Venezuelan consul, and he claimed that poverty had gone down in parallel with the increase in social investment. On January 29, he held his last “Aló, Presidente” and we spent the Carnavales weekend among rumors and official denials about his cancer, but in March, Chávez himself confirmed that a new tumor had been successfully extracted and he needed new radiotherapy sessions, so he cut down his public and media appearances, without delegating the Executive Branch and with the power to announce decisions via his Twitter account or through phone calls aired on VTV, including the enactment of the Framework Law of Labor and the reform of the Organic Code of Criminal Proceedings. All of his absences were unanimously approved by the National Assembly and the weight of government fell on Elías Jaua, Diosdado Cabello and Tareck El Aissami.
Violence without diplomacy
In Maracaibo, CICPC officers killed the Chilean consul’s daughter, 19-year old Karen Berendique. The Commercial Attaché of Costa Rica’s Embassy, Guillermo Cholele, was kidnapped and released two days later. The Mexican ambassador’s residence was robbed, three months after he and his wife were kidnapped and released after paying ransom to a criminal gang. There were a couple of express kidnappings against members of the Bolivian and Vietnamese embassies, but the embassies of Greece, France and Suriname were also burglarized. Drug trafficker Walid Makled named the accomplices that allowed him to traffic drugs, which included State authorities such as former general and TSJ justice Eladio Aponte Aponte, who fled the country after he was pressured to give an explanation for the TSJ credential he granted Makled. Former DIM director, general Wilmer Moreno, was murdered: ten shots in Anzoátegui state.
“Corazón Venezolano“ vs. “Hay un Camino“
The presidential campaign kicked off in July. Official mouthpieces attacked Capriles with xenophobic and homophobic slanders, but they later popularized the adjective “majunche,” while pro-Chávez cadenas increased. An unforgettable event was the interview of Aymara Lorenzo with presidential candidate María Bolívar, who asked her for “una ayudaíta” to answer how she’d reduce inflation. Capriles chose to visit towns, while Chávez used the entire State apparatus to present himself as the protective father, with few public appearances, and he only “acknowledged” his administration’s mistakes in the last ones. For presidential elections, a million Venezuelans were estimated to be living abroad and only 50,000 of them had updated their data in the Electoral Registry. This year, captahuellas were first used to activate voting machines. Chávez was arrogant enough to run for his third re-election despite his deteriorating health and little chance of recovery. He won with 55.08% of votes, against Capriles’ 44.31%.
Anointment and other elections
A week before holding gubernatorial elections, Chávez returned to the country and announced that his cancer had reappeared: he had to undergo surgery. He anointed Nicolás, asking PSUV militants to support him, because he had to be his successor.
The news united chavismo and they walked away with 20 out of 23 governorships in December 16th. The opposition only won Amazonas, Lara and Miranda states. Andrés Velásquez denounced fraud in Bolívar. Chávez didn’t appear on camera again, nor did he speak to the country over the phone. Nicolás and minister Ernesto Villegas issued some thirty reports on his health and insisted that Chávez had full use of his faculties, sealing the most repeated phrase of the coming year: “Chávez told us to say that…” The TSJ was pressured to postpone the presidential inauguration and closing the year, Nicolás said in a cadena that Chávez was suffering complications due to an infection, suspending New Year’s celebration at Bolívar square.
Former justice Eladio Aponte Aponte wrote a letter from Costa Rica, confessing that he was ordered and pressured by Chávez to imprison commissioners Henry Vivas, Lázaro Forero and Iván Simonovis for the events on April 2002. José Amalio Graterol, lawyer of judge María Lourdes Afiuni, was arrested by the National Guard for refusing to try the accused in absentia. He was released after standing trial and sentenced to 6 months in prison which he was able to serve out of jail. According to reports by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict, there were an average of 15 protests per day in 2012, for a total of 5,483, a new record. The conflict in La Planta prison was huge and Prison Minister Iris Varela transferred the inmates to other prisons, later saying that this dignified their human rights.
The 11th Summit of ALBA-TCP was held in Caracas and member-state presidents, safe for Cuba, adopted a resolution to forego the the Inter American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance. Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo was removed from office and Mercosur expelled Paraguay, considering Venezuela’s membership, which would later be approved in Brasilia. Only three countries ran and were “elected” for the three vacant spots in the U.N. Human Rights Council: Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela. The government presented the event as a confirmation of its solvency on the matter, despite refusing to let U.N. rapporteurs into the country and dismissing the institution’s proposals. Presidents Ollanta Humala and Mahmud Ahmadineyad visited the country, the latter on his tour to win support for Iran’s political and economic crisis.
The minimum wage rose by 15% in May (Bs. 1,780.45, which amounted to $414.06 back then) and by another 15% in September, taking the figure to Bs. 2,047.52 ($476.17). GDP was 5.5% and inflation was 20.1%, keeping its place as the highest in Latin America. Just two years after Agroisleña was expropriated, the State-owned company AgroPatria went through a budget crisis and the government granted it $300 million. Planning Minister Jorge Giordani presented the National Budget for 2013, for Bs. 396,406,000, 33% larger than in 2012, estimating oil prices at $55 per barrel, even though the price for that year was $103.42. The black market dollar opened the year at Bs. 8.69 and closed at Bs. 17.32.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.