Saturday, February 6, 2010

Caracas Mayor: "There is a Cuban Invasion Here"


Metropolitan Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma

I am going to post a translation of an article up yesterday (Saturday) at the Caracas newspaper site El Universal that contains a public statement of a prominent Venezuelan public figure that can only be viewed as representing a direct challenge to the Hugo Chavez regime.  In the article Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of "Metropolitan Caracas"--a somewhat confusing term after the implementation of the Capital District Law of 2009, in which Chavez stripped him of a significant portion of his authority--charges that Venezuelan sovereignty has been significantly compromised by what Ledezma calls a "Cuban invasion."  What I find particularly important about the statement is that the Mayor calls upon the Venezuelan Armed Forces to explain why the country is "being invaded by a foreign government."  These kinds of appeals cannot be going down easy among Chavez's supporters, who understand that the population is in earnest.

Before I get to the translation itself, there are two matters I wish to address in brief.  First; I would like to give a little background on Antonio Ledezma, who I think is a man Venezuelans, especially those in the capital city, will pay attention to when he speaks.  And second; I want to give a short overview of the issues raised in the mission of Cuban General Ramiro Valdes, perhaps the number three man in Cuba after Fidel and Raul Castro, who has arrived in Venezuela ostensibly to help "fix" the country's electrical power generation problems, but who instead has created widespread fears of an impending campaign of political repression of a much more dangerous sort than we have seen from Hugo Chavez to date.

Antonio José Ledezma Díaz, 54 years old, has served in Venezuelan public life for almost two decades.  From 1992-1993 he was the Governor of what was then the Federal District of Caracas, an entity that was later abolished.  He later served as Mayor of the Libertador Municipality, which forms part of Greater Caracas, from 1996-2000.  He became one of the first Venezuelan politicians to challenge Hugo Chavez successfully in the Caracas area, generally considered a bastion of Chavismo, in 2008 when he defeated Chavez's hand-picked candidate Aristobulo Isturiz in the Caracas Mayor's race, only to see the National Assembly reduce his power in the already-mentioned Capital District Law of last April.  He is a member of the splinter political party Alianza Bravo Pueblo (Fearless People's Alliance), though he was formerly affiated with Acción Democrática, one of the historical social democratic parties that is now trying to overcome its greatly-diminished power of recent years; in no small part a consequence of their abstentionist political stance in recent elections.

Cuban General Ramiro Valdes
Source:  AFP/Getty Images

In the interview with El Universal I am introducing in this entry, Ledezma raises serious concerns over the expanding presence of thousands of Cuban advisors and military personnel, and which directly references General Ramiro Valdes, formerly Cuba's interior minister and Government Vice President, who recently has been in charge of Cuban internet "regulation."  Those who have followed events in Cuba closely will know that this obviously entails much of the Castro regime's recent repressive acts against Cuban bloggers.  And Valdes's personal history as Interior Minister in Cuba does not inspire confidence among Venezuelans, or anyone else observing honestly for that matter, that the essence of his task relates to repairing Venezuela's very serious electrical power generation problems, which are the source of significant dissatisfaction with Chavez's rule among Venezuelans.  As you will be able to see, Ledezma is absolutely unconvinced that the Valdes mission has anything to do with electrical power generation.

One other point to mention about the article.  You will notice that the persistent problem of public safety, i.e. "insecurity," again crops up in the interview with Mayor Ledezma, who is obviously seeking to reverse the effects of the Capital District Law of 2009 with respect to the maintenance of public order.  This is a major issue with many in Caracas.

"Ledezma:  There is a Cuban Invasion Here"
03:22 PM Caracas. - The Mayor, Antonio Ledezma, lashed out at the presence in the country of Cuban Minister Ramiro Valdes, and stated that the Armed Forces should explain why Venezuela is being invaded by a foreign government.

"There is a Cuban invasion here. The president has stated that we have thousands and thousands of Cubans here. What response is there to this? We are thought of as unpatriotic when we make a statement of what is beyond Venezuela," Ledezma said.

He added "Do they believe that they will scare us with this Cuban? Do they believe they are going to silence society?

The Mayor considered it "a confession of incapacity, of ineptitude" that we are looking for help in other countries to resolve the electrical crisis, when there are dozens of technicians in Venezuela.

"Tell this Mr. Valdes that we all know that he is an expert on police terrorism. He will be coming to electrocute Venezuelans because what lessons of efficiency in matters of electrification can this man, who has a criminal record and experience only in matters of persecution and harassment in the Cuban G2, give to us."

Ledezma also defended the students. "I believe that the students are behaving as they are because they also use a light bulb to see, they know they need water, they are also family members."

The National Guard is not resolving the problem of security

The Mayor, Antonio Ledezma, considers that President Hugo Chavez's announcement of sending the National Guard into the streets to combat insecurity in the country does not constitute a real solution to the problem.

"No one can frown upon the effort but the result of announcing this 6 times more or less, is that every time they go on announcing that the National Guard is heading out into the streets the issue of insecurity gains strength, the guard only shows up at bus stops and afterwards goodbye to the electrical power that's now switched off," the Mayor maintained.

He said that the National Police have not worked out, and they have not done so because "it was a mistake to put a partisan political label on the police, nowhere in the world are the police socialist, or social christian."

He suggested the government would be better off taking another look at the decentralization schemes for fighting insecurity that he proposed "instead of harassing the regional police."

He asked once again that the Metropolitan Police be returned to the city's control in order to "teach them how to manage a security plan" because in his view putting that police force in the hands of the national government has not meant any better pay nor better equipment for them and less security for the citizenry.

He insisted upon adopting the security plan that he developed with a group of experts headed by Fermin Marmol Leon. "The security plan prepared by a team of specialists has not been dropped."

In Ledezma's judgement it is impossible for the government to continue hiding in the closet with respect to the subject of security. "There are war parties out every weekend, the President never speaks of insecurity and there are 150 thousand deaths in the 11 years of his tenure.

In the Blogosphere

As one might guess, the Venezuelan bloggers have been all over the Valdes mission and they go even farther than does Ledezma in voicing their anxieties about Valdes's past and what it portends for Venzuela.  Among the English-language Venezuelan blogs I would especially recommend Miguel's excellent piece at the Devil's Excrement, "Hugo: How insensitive can you be? Ramiro Valdes is a murderer."  That's spot on the mark, by the way Miguel.  Juan Cristobal has an initial entry piece up at Caracas Chronicles, "Enter Ramirito," which presents an introduction to Valdes and speculates that his real mission is to assist Hugo Chavez in controlling internet and telecommunications use.  Daniel Duquenal at Venezuela News and Views has two interesting posts to read.  He pegs Valdes clearly as "one of the major assassins of an already assassin rich Fidel Castro entourage," as well as a second post which reports that Valdes has been strongly rejected in the country and that those within Chavismo would do well to correct their mistake.

Among the Spanish-language blogs I would like to point to three at this moment.  Gustavo Coronel posted an excellent entry yesterday on the very topic I am covering here which uses historical allusion to compare Mayor Antonio Ledezma to Alonso Andreas de Ledesma, an honored and respected figure of Venezuelan history who defended Caracas from the attack of the pirate Amyas Preston in 1596 and who is widely regarded as the model for the character Don Quixote in the novel by Miguel de Cervantes of the same name.  It's an absolutely wonderful piece.  As always, Martha Colmenares is right on top of the issue in multiple posts on her site.  In her first entry, she addresses the negative reactions to the arrival of Valdes, and then follows it with a closer look at Ramiro Valdes as delivered by author Pedro Corzo Eves, which is most disquieting as it paints Valdes in very dark terms.  Finally, Lazaro Gonzalez at Cuba Independiente has a couple of interesting posts worth mentioning.  In "Que hace Ramiro Valdes en Venezuela?" (What is Ramiro Valdes doing in Venezuela?), Laz relates the Valdes mission to Chavez's need to address a deteriorating political situation among his own former supporters, especially in the wake of numerous and recent resignations.  And in a second, and I think very interesting, post "I am sorry Ramiro you are out" Laz suggests that Valdes's appointment is a sign that he is being moved out of the way in the succession to Fidel.

The Valdes mission will remain a topic to keep in view.




firepigette said...

I am happy to see a good word put in for Ledezma.I knew him personally in San Juan de los Morros in the years 1977-78.I had recently moved to the town with my husband who was not at all political but secured a government position under CAP.

I traveled with Ledezma on some occasions, once to Valle de la Pascua,where I was able to know him well enough get a clear picture of his character.

To be honest , I was bored, because I have a more artistic and adventurous bent so for me he was just a plodding political guy without too much depth.But I was young and silly.

Yet one thing I can vouch for:he is a no- nonsense, tireless worker and most likely the least of all the politicians I have met in Venezuela to be bought off.He is also a fabulous manager.I think he might possibly be the only one that could beat Chavez.

God speed to his endeavors.I agree completely with him that security has to be # 1, and we need to demand answers as to why it hasn't been

StJacques said...


You are the third person I have heard from today (2 others via e-mail) who either knows Ledezma personally, has met him, or has communicated with him and their comments on the man mirror your own. I thought you might want to hear that.

Thank you for stopping by. I've read more than a few of your comments posted at Daniel's site, which I visit regularly.


firepigette said...

Thanks for letting me know St. Jacques.
I often feel like I am rather 'alonish' in my views, so it is good to hear that others who knew him perceive him in this way too.

I bookmarked your blog to keep up with your posts.

Roy said...

After the recent regional elections Chavez ordered his "Justice" department to investigate all of the opposition politicians who won seats trying to find enough dirt to sack them. The only thing they could come up with on Ledezma was a charge that he had not paid an inheritance tax on some property he received when his mother died over 10 years ago. In Venezuelan terms, that makes him so squeaky clean as to be downright shocking.

The very best politicians are boring. They do all their real work behind the scenes. They rarely make headlines. Their public persona and policy is predictable (boring). That is what good public policy is: Stable, predictable, and boring.

I like Ledezma for all those reasons.

StJacques said...

Well said Roy.

In my opinion, one of the major shortcomings of the Venezuelan resistance to Chavez is that it lacks a charismatic leader. I view this as an indication of the political immaturity of Venezuelans, something I group together with what I also consider to be a near-utopian belief among many that abstaining from the electoral process will somehow bring about its reform.

Somehow, Venezuelans must come to grips with the need for unified political action. I see some signs that this very phenomenon may be developing this year, but we will have to wait for the results.



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