In 2013, chavismo opened Simón Bolívar’s brand-new Mausoleum, an architectural calamity that failed to divert attention from the malfunctions of the National Electric System’s transmission lines, which caused power outages in most of the country’s states. A 90-day electrical emergency was declared and the system was put under military control. There was a new outbreak of AH1N1 flu in the country and Unesco declared the Parranda de San Pedro an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 1.3 tons of cocaine were seized in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, distributed among 31 suitcases in an inbound flight from Maiquetía, while the government imported 50 million rolls of toilet paper, announced by minister Alejandro Fleming as an accomplishment. The regime created the Bolivarian System of Communication and Information, Corpomiranda, the program Patria Segura (which didn’t make it through that year) and the the Vice Ministry of Utmost Social Happiness. Food rationing started in Zulia, restricting the purchase of regulated products to up to twice a day. Gabriela Isler won the Miss Universe in Moscow and the Armed Forces opened its own bank and TV station.
Violating the Constitution
The year starts without Chávez, with Nicolás minimizing the inauguration as well as the elements to declare the president’s vacancy, violating the Constitution with the support of the National Assembly (AN) and the TSJ, because according to the Constitutional Chamber’s interpretation of article 231, there was administrative continuity. A show was then staged in Miraflores Palace, Chávez’s “virtual” inauguration, including speeches from Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega and José Mujica. Nicolás gave the Accountability Speech of 2012 before the AN, violating article 237 of the Constitution, but he did it in fifteen minutes and he used them to appoint Elías Jaua as Foreign Minister.
Chávez went from a “stationary situation,” to using a tracheal cannula to breathe. From smilingly reading a Granma with his daughters (a meme that’s still in use) he returned to the country early one day straight to the MIlitary Hospital, where a nurse said she’d seen him walking. Three months of severe secrecy about his condition followed, but on March 5, while coming home from my office, I heard one of my neighbors shouting from his balcony: “The dictator is dead! Chávez is dead!”. It was Nicolás who announced it.
In addition to the seven days of national mourning, Jaua decreed that Nicolás would assume the provisional presidency. The next day, a huge funerary procession carried the body from the Military Hospital to the Military Academy and once he was embalmed, he was taken to the Military Museum (now the infamous Cuartel de la Montaña) where an extended wake was held for him. Nicolás was sworn in before the AN, and immediately requested the CNE to call for presidential elections and proposed a constitutional amendment to take Chávez’s remains to the National Pantheon.
The Fast and the Tricky
Henrique Capriles Radonski accepted MUD’s nomination for presidential elections. He accused Nicolás of manipulating the information about Chávez’s health and of using his wake for electoral purposes. It was the shortest campaign in our history: it only took 10 days! Nicolás said he’d received the visit of a bird that he felt was imbued with Chávez’s presence, while State media obsessively emphasized his anointment, chavismo’s best propaganda. On election day, late at night, with 99.12% of transferred ballots, the CNE announced Nicolás as the winner with 7,505,338 votes (50.66%) while Capriles got 7,270,403 votes (49.07%).
In his victory speech, Nicolás proposed verifying 100% of the electoral process’ ballots, considering the narrow gap in the results. Capriles claimed he wouldn’t recognize the CNE’s results until a full audit was performed on the entirety of the electoral ballots, demanding a manual recount. Despite this point of agreement, Nicolás was proclaimed President the next day, unleashing protests across the country, with a significant balance of dead and wounded citizens. Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz blamed the opposition for the violence, while the CNE declared that they wouldn’t do a manual recount. The opposition challenged the results before the CNE. The head of TSJ ruled that manual recount wasn’t a legal method in the country. At night, Tibisay Lucena announced that it was “impossible to perform and audit under the terms demanded” by the opposition, and they challenged the results before the TSJ and requested that elections be repeated; a process they would complete nine more times and which the TSJ invariably denied, ordering Capriles to pay a fine for “insulting the institution” and urging the Prosecutor’s Office to open a criminal investigation against him.
And in the National Assembly
Diosdado Cabello announced that he would ban any lawmakers who didn’t recognize Nicolás as president from addressing the Chamber. MUD’s legislators protested the decision and were physically assaulted, leaving seven of them wounded.
Photo: La República
They went on a tour through Peru, Paraguay, the U.S. and Panama to denounce the attacks and after 21 days without sessions, they recovered their speaking rights. The AN stripped Richard Mardo from his parliamentary immunity due to alleged investigations on corruption. Nicolás presented his request for an Enabling Law to fight corruption and reform the economic system which was approved by chavismo. They also stripped lawmaker María Aranguren from her parliamentary immunity and her deputy, Carlos Flores, became chavismo’s “99th lawmaker.” Luisa Ortega Díaz requested the TSJ to proceed with a preliminary hearing on merits against lawmaker María Aranguren which the TSJ accepted.
That year, Venezuela finally left the IACHR and Caracas hosted ALBA’s Political Council, the 7th Summit of Petrocaribe and the International Anti-Fascist Meeting, for the 40th anniversary of the coup d’état in Chile. Former Iranian Finance Minister Tahmasb Mazaheri was arrested in Düsseldorf’s airport with a check from the Central Bank of Venezuela for Bs. 300 million, around 54 million euro back then. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Cavim for selling weapons to Iran. In the OAS, Panama’s ambassador Guillermo Cochez had a fall-in with Roy Charderon for criticizing Nicolás’ government. Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo spoke for dialogue in Venezuela and Nicolás recalled the Venezuelan ambassador in Peru for consultation. The Interior Ministry announced the arrest of American citizen Tim Tracy, accusing him of destabilization. It was later revealed that he was a producer making a documentary and he was deported without charges. Nicolás met with Pope Francis in the Vatican. Later in Haiti, he offered political asylum for Edward Snowden, while in Paris, Ilich Ramírez – aka Carlos el Chacal – was sentenced to life in prison. The government expelled three officials of the U.S. Embassy, accusing them of planning actions of sabotage and destabilization.
The elections for mayors and council members of the country’s 335 municipalities were postponed from May 26 to July 14 and were finally held on December 8. The CNE announced PSUV as the winner in 242 municipalities, while MUD obtained 75 and independents got 18 mayorships.
The second “Red Friday” took place in February: the official dollar rate went from Bs. 4.30 to Bs. 6.30, the fifth adjustment in 10 years of FX controls, allegedly ordered by Chávez from Cuba. The regime created the Complementary System of Currency Administration (Sicad) to replace Sitme, as well as the Higher Office of Economy. This was the year of the “Dakazo,” the take over and forced discount in prices across all Daka stores; which would later be repeated in JVG stores.
Inflation reached 56.1%, and the government blamed it on the “economic war,” although there was actually a drop of over 70% in the allocation of dollars for importers. The administration didn’t update the product shortage index, which had reached 20% by October, and the GDP grew by 1.34%. The black market dollar opened the year at Bs. 18 and closed it at Bs. 69.
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