The matter is serious. He may be the living Venezuelan politician most respected outside his country. The international clamor against this abuse has been enormous, and the price Chavismo is paying is high. Even the White House has issued a statement in protest.
Now 67, this Christian Democratic lawyer with a well-earned reputation as an honest man, has been everything in Venezuela, except president. He headed the Chamber of Deputies, was governor of Zulia and, in 1993, lost the presidential election by a narrow margin against Rafael Caldera, his former mentor and fellow party member.
The excuse made for jailing him is ridiculous. He is accused of conspiring against the security of the nation, instigating others to disobey the law, disseminating false information and encouraging others to commit crimes.
On what basis? According to his jailers, on a popular program on Globovisión directed by Leopoldo Castillo, Alvarez Paz commented that the image of the Venezuelan government has been seriously tarnished by its alleged links to the FARC narcoterrorists and the ETA terrorists, while the country sinks amid the murderous violence of the criminals, the corruption of many officials, and the almost astounding inefficiency of the public sector.
In other words, exactly the picture described by almost all the international organizations, investigated by the Spanish judicial apparatus, and the target of the complaints of millions of Venezuelans every day.
Why did Hugo Chávez order such a stupid step? The answer may have been provided by Roger Noriega, former U.S. ambassador, a great expert on Latin America, and a person with access to information that few people possess. Because of the denunciation made by Alvarez Paz about the presence in Venezuela of Gen. Ramiro Valdés, a document in which the Christian Democratic leader foretold the possible ``arrival of regular troops from Cuba to reinforce the defense of the Chavista revolution.''
Alvarez Paz touched a sensitive nerve.
In reality, Oswaldo Alvarez Paz is a prisoner of the Cubans. In Venezuela, the orders are issued by the intelligence apparatus operating from the third floor of Castro's embassy in Caracas.
Years ago, Chávez realized that his permanence in power depends on Cuban support and has delivered himself, bound hand and foot, to Havana. Cuba is the metropolis that commands and plunders, and Venezuela is the colony that obeys and pays.
It is the Cubans who decide whom to arrest, whom to intimidate and who should conveniently be removed from the country. It is they who design the political and police strategy of expanding social control.
It is they who spy on the opposition, the military brass and functionaries, the ones who tap their phones and film them, the ones who compile compromising information to neutralize or blackmail them. It is they who set the pace for the growing construction of a totalitarian state copied, more or less, from the Soviet-Cuban model.
There are Cuban advisers in all institutions, but the most sensitive zones of intervention are the army and the political police. Simultaneously, hundreds of Venezuelan youngsters are being taught in Cuba the techniques of social repression and political control that the Cubans learned from the KGB and the East German Stasi. The training lasts from six months to a year, and they will be given the task of managing the totalitarian state once the cage has been completed.
The Cuban government is intent on accelerating the creation of the totalitarian state. Chávez is in agreement. The information conveyed by the Cuban agents to the Castro brothers indicates that popular support for Chávez is swiftly collapsing. If the partial elections in September are true and transparent, he would suffer a crushing loss.
The Cubans' suggestion is to ``rapidly deepen the revolution,'' which implies eliminating any vestige of democracy and freedom that remains in the country. They may even find some excuse to suspend the election. That is why they detained Oswaldo Alvarez Paz. He was an obstacle to the Cuban plans.