In the chess game of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Diosdado Cabello has lost several pieces these days. The last official gazettes have been warning that some of his closest collaborators have been dismissed from their strategic positions. Viz his brother-in-law Rafael Contreras Hernández who was in charge of Bolivariana de Aeropuertos until January 8 of the current year, by order of the Ministry of Air and Water Transport.
A removal also took place in the State Railway Institute (IFE): the first one to get dismissed was its president, Franklin Pérez Colina, who has publicly stated that his partnership with Cabello started back in 1992. The very Speaker of the National Assembly put him in charge of the million railway projects and he remained in such position for more than three years until last January 3, when his dismissal was shown on the Official Gazette.
It was the Vice President of the Republic who ordered his dismissal. Since he took over the presidency, Nicolas Maduro has appointed only one person, and we are precisely speaking of the Minister of Land Transport, Juan García Toussaintt, who has been designated as acting President of the IFE, in replacement of the one appointed by Cabello before leaving the Ministry of Public Works.
The truth lying behind the pictures, the hugs and the handshakes is that everyone is taking advantage for their own benefit. Otherwise, Deputy Ismael García does not comprehend how Darío Vivas appeared as the second in command at the National Assembly.
“On January 4, we all witnessed that Diosdado Cabello had announced Darío Vivas’s comeback, who now shares the leadership position of the board of directors with Pedro Carreño and Blanca Eekhout; Pedro came that day very well dressed wearing his Vuitton tie, and what happened?” García wonders. “Nicolás Maduro imposed one of his important pieces in order to bring balance.
The comeback of Foreign Minister Jaua
Around Chávez, there are movements which go from hardcore collectives of low-income Caracas’ barrio January 23 to what they baptized in their own group as the endogenous right. García, who also gravitated towards this orbit until 2007, points out that it is wrong to suppose that the United Socialist Party of Venezuela has solely rearranged in a civilian wing led by Maduro and in another wing of military nature represented by Cabello.
With no conductor, Deputy García defines the PSUV as a “group federation.” It is some sort of an alliance of several factions with apportionment of positions and power share. In fact, by the end of 2009, he already denounced four different associations involved in the so-called financial centrifuge, which finished in bankruptcy and placement in receivership of 11 banks.
In those days, he indicated that the then Minister of Public Works, Diosdado Cabello, held an important position in one of the groups. On another spot, he put Barinas Governor, Adán Chávez, together with businessmen like Ricardo Fernández Barrueco, who was precisely behind the bars at that time. He also indicated Jesse Chacón in another clan in company with his brother Arné, who has been just released from jail, and finally, he pointed out that former Vice President José Vicente Rangel was a leading figure of another conglomerate, which counted on business people like the current fugitive Pedro Torres Ciliberto.
Many of these representatives continue exerting a great deal of influence; however, there are also other stockholders at the moment, who should be added when joining efforts. Some of them are: Freddy Bernal, Jorge Rodríguez, Jesse Chacón and Erika Faría.
Elías Jaua also belongs to the aforementioned group. Between 2010 and 2012, he was first seen in the cabinet with strategic allies such as Juan Carlos Loyo, Eduardo Samán and Richard Canán from the Ministries of Trade, and Agriculture and Lands. Subsequent to his recent comeback as a Foreign Minister and Vice President for Political Affairs, he is placed in the PSUV as ideologically closer to Maduro than Cabello; nevertheless, at this time, there is no other option but to smile together in front of the cameras.
Rafael Ramírez is also on the spotlight. He has managed oil holding Pdvsa since 2004. If anyone overlooked a detail, at the beginning of the current year, he was among the few people invited by Raúl Castro to take part in what several media agencies have called the Pact of the Havana. This pact is composed of the following members: Vice President Nicolas Maduro; National Assembly’s Speaker Diosdado Cabello; Solicitor General Cilia Flores; Barinas state Governor, Adán Chávez, and Minister of Science and Technology Jorge Arreaza.
While the meeting was held privately in the Havana; back in Caracas, Maduro and Cabello were seen working together in the inspection of a state-led company, with the intention to clarify that there exists no division among the two of them.
Former Deputy José Albornoz, who also supported Chávez’s project until 2010, believes that Maduro, Cabello and the rest of leaders of the PSUV have no other option but to work together, although behind the scenes, they continue to be in a power struggle that can be easily seen in the appointments and destitutions like the one seen in the State Railway Institute. “That is the way to win at chess,” he says. “When someone plays chess, they put their pawns forward and protect their bishops.”
The Arias Cárdenas factor
Maduro is known to be a former member of the Socialist League. He started as a labor union delegate in Caracas Subway, and he has climbed positions in the Government in company with Solicitor General Cilia Flores, former Vice President José Vicente Rangel, Deputies Fernando Soto Rojas and Darío Vivas, and Minister of Electrical Energy Héctor Navarro, who has been appointed –not in vain- as the acting Vice President during Maduro’s visits to Cuba.
Diosdado Cabello, for his part, made his first appearance on February 4, 1992 and on the road, he has been seen closely related to fomer treasurer Alejandro Andrade; former Minister of Basic Industries and Mining Rodolfo Sanz; Deputy Pedro Carreño; President of the Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange (Cadivi), Manuel Barroso, and his own brother, José David Cabello, who is in charge of the National Integrated Service for the Administration of Custom Duties and Taxes (Seniat).
José Albornoz, from the Venezuelan Progressive Movement, indicates that the Speaker of the National Assembly does not only count on the military power attributed to him, but he also counts on business people and figures from the Government strategically established in both Infrastructure and Finances fields.
In the same sense, lawyer Rocío San Miguel comments from NGO Citizen‘s Control, that Cabello’s clout on the National Armed Forces (FAN) is a myth: “In these 14 years, he has created work teams in order to get benefits from the public administration in which active military officers participate, this attributes him no power or clout in the FAN whatsoever.”
San Miguel believes that the role played by the 10 military Governors, voted in the PSUV electoral roll, will be quite relevant in the time ahead. Among them, one in particular calls attention: Zulia state Governor. “I would say that Arias Cárdenas is the most influential retired military officer inside both the chavist and the non-chavist national armed forces at this time, especially in the Army,” she claims.
Neither Arias Cárdenas nor any of the other 19 chavist governors can be disregarded. Albornoz points out that they belong to the political structure that Chávez set, in case he was not able to take back office. In such rearrangement, everyone is in a power struggle. Not in vain, Maduro appeared on January 8, in a mandatory nationwide radio and television broadcast showing a video conference in company with the Military High Command. “That mandatory nationwide broadcast was not intended for us, but for power sectors inside the Chávezism instead,” Albornoz concludes.