Shit + Fan = Right now

Well, I’d been forecasting it for weeks, but still I was a little shocked when it happened. The government has moved on the Metropolitan Police. It was obvious that they wouldn’t tolerate a large, armed group in the capital to remain in the hands of the opposition for long. There are National Guard and army units all over town right now, and it’s definitely the most tense the city has been since April. Most police commanders seem to be siding with Mayor Alfredo Peña and against the government at the moment, but the situation is incredibly volatile.

It’s barely a big surprise how badly the government is bungling this one. Realizing that if they tried to appoint a chavista loyalist to head the PM they’d have no credibility at all, they at first tried to appoint a relatively independent new Chief of Police, Commissar Delgado. He went around all the different police stations yesterday, quickly realized that the move had no support at all, and resigned less than 12 hours into the job. So next up they appointed a chavista loyalist, named Gonzalo Sánchez, who is being identified by CNN as “the former right-hand man of Libertador Mayor Freddy Bernal.” He appears to have strong ties to the Bolivarian Circles, and is obviously totally unacceptable to the opposition and most of the PM. Bernal, of course, is one of the most militant and dangerous supporters of the government, and is widely seen as the key organizer for the Caracas area Bolivarian Circles.

This entire move is plainly illegal, way, way, way out of line, and escalates tensions in the capital alarmingly. Anything could happen here. It’s clear that most PM field commanders are not going to recognize Sánchez, they’re still only recognizing Peña’s police chief, Henry Vivas, as their commander. It’s a very, very fluid situation, with many heavily armed men on either side, and it’s incredibly dangerous. There are army tanks parked outside every PM station.

The short-term result of this idiocy is to totally marginalize the moderates on each side. It’s very hard for me to see how OAS brokered negotiations can go forward in this climate. It’s just too serious a provocation on the part of the government.

Stay tuned.

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A journalist, political commentator and news obsessive, Francisco Toro is the Founder and Executive Editor of Caracas Chronicles.


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