Monday, January 31, 2005


Dissenting with Chavez

In a previous post, I raised the issue of shaking up the tags and false clichés that have been successfully attached by the Chavistas to any dissenting person. The fact is that the Chavez movement is one that accepts no dissension, practical or philosophical. It is the negation of dissension what makes Chavismo such a dangerous and undemocratic political current. For the Chavistas, any dissenting voice is dangerous, anyone that disagrees with their politics must be ridiculed or set aside and, if it becomes a potential threat, persecuted.

Since Chavez took power, the government has infiltrated or changed every single democratic institution. This is a government that wants to have absolutely everything under control. Even non-political institutions like hospitals or research centers must be taken over by the Chavistas.

When AD or Copei ran the country, despite the flagrant partisan spirit that was present in the government, and despite the attempts by either party to try to have as much control as possible of the institutions, there was no intrinsic fear of dissension. We were far from having an ideal government, but one could find dissenting voices at several levels. The Universities, the Supreme Court, the Unions, are just some of the examples. More importantly, at that time, dissenting was something nobody had ever thought about. It was neither defined nor feared. If people did not agree with the government, they did not agree, end of it. Yes, some civil servant jobs depended on the color of your party, but the fact that that color was wrong did not bring intrinsic fear of persecution.

The situation is quite different now, especially after the Revoking Referendum. People are afraid, not in an extreme way like in old totalitarian regimes, but afraid noneless in a very subtle way. For instance, they are afraid that the well deserved promotion that should be given soon would not materialize because “they signed”. Afraid that they will not get the dollars to travel abroad or to import goods for their company because “they signed”. Afraid to lose their jobs, even if they were hold through different governments, because “they signed”. Afraid that a passport or an ID card will be denied if the “signed” light turns on. Afraid that their retirement benefits would not be approved because “they signed”. The act of signing for the Revoke Referendum, a perfectly legal act guaranteed by the Venezuelan constitution, has been considered by the Chavistas as a valid reason to blacklist those that exerted that right. Today, one blogger wrote about a personal example of this situation.

To understand how important that subtle fear is one must understand that in Venezuela almost everything depends on the government. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan economy depends almost exclusively on the oil rent. In Venezuela someone used to say that there were not “good or bad governments” but rather “high or low oil prices”. Thus, people’s jobs either depend directly on the government (civil servants, researchers, university professors, hospital employees, etc.) or indirectly (consulting firms, service companies, exporting and importing companies, etc.).

Now, where does this fear of dissension come from? In part the explanation can be found in the military background of President Hugo Chavez. We must not forget that Chavez is not an ordinary retired lieutenant-colonel. He was in the army when he tried to overthrow a legitimate government and was later forced to retire to get a presidential pardon and run for president. In the army, there is no room for dissension and I think that such military directive has been widely adopted by the government of Hugo Chavez. If one pays attention to Chavez words, it is indeed easy to realize that he very often uses military terms and that his political strategy equates to a military strategy.

Sadly, there is a large group of bright, prepared and entrepreneurial people among the Venezuelan dissenting voices. Unfortunately, Chavez confrontational style, dictatorial manners and fear of dissention have kept away those talented and dynamic Venezuelans. Chavez has not learned that in order to rebuild the country he needs those people. And to attract those people he needs let go of his fear of dissension. In order for the country to bounce back of six years of divisions, he needs to build a real democracy where dissension will be listened to and the opposition would not be set aside, but rather consulted.

A democracy where all the ballot papers will be counted.

Friday, January 28, 2005


The eternal Chavez

[Originally posted in Venezuela news and Views]

Browsing through Chavista sites, I found this article, written by William Izarra, that has such a suggestive title that I knew I had to write about it. The article is quite difficult to translate because it is written in classical Chavista style using exuberant words and long pompous sentences. Therefore, I will translate just the end that, in my view, wraps up the essence of the message.

The beginning of the article essentially repeats the official line concerning the intervention of the United States in World affairs, and in particular in Latin America. According to them, the Plan Colombia, that was first put in place to fight against drug cartels, has been transformed, since 2004, into an “anti-terrorist” plan to be able to justify the presence of U.S. troops in Colombia and in the Andean region. The objective being to “finish with the revolutionary Venezuelan process”.

The author then explains that even though the process implanted in Venezuela is based on a peaceful revolution inspired by Simon Bolivar, the U.S. is using its power to get rid of Hugo Chavez. According to him, the latest declarations by Condoleezza Rice, those of James Hill, supported by general Bantz Craddoch, as well as those of senator Bill Nelson synthesize the real spirit of the plan Colombia: “to eliminate radical populisms such as the one in Venezuela”. He then uses the example of the Granda case that, according to him, constitutes a “direct intervention”.

The home-made translation of the last paragraph is written below.

“But it is that Hugo Chavez and his revolutionary process is in the phase of Jump Ahead, he is put in the blood of the Venezuelan people. The January 23 march demonstrates the popular will to reject even with their life the imperial pretension to settle in Venezuelan ground. Hugo Chavez, the leader, has been made want and love by the people that vibrate of emotion for Simon Bolivar. Hugo Chavez is now the essence of that feeling and is, therefore, the leader that has gathered the seedtime of the Libertador. That is why the empire will crash against the people that consciously follow, with unbreakable strength, the man that woke up the emancipating spirit of Bolivar and the revolutionary will of fight. We are grateful for the existence of Chavez and we must endorse him, we must follow him in fullness and we must transmit him our positive energies so that his mind will always be lucid and his spirit will be full of the love of the people that will love him forever”

What I found interesting in the above paragraph is the intent of sanctifying Chavez image, to elevate him to some kind of religious figure. This is a very Venezuelan trait, that has been, in part, the reason of our series of bad governments. Venezuelan people, indeed, need a leader, a caudillo, a benefactor, but they also need a magical element, one that would make forget the harshness of everyday life and save them in difficult times.

Bolivar constitutes one of those magical characters that excite the collective imagination. In many small towns all over Venezuela, the image of Bolivar is venerated like that of a saint. Another important example is Jose Gregorio Hernandez, a mythical doctor and great benefactor of the beginning of the century who died when he was struck by a car, one of the few cars in circulation at the time, in Caracas, in 1919. His image is almost as familiar as Bolivar’s and, all over the country, people of all social classes pray to “their doctor” in times of difficulty. Americans would be interested to know that there is a US president that was also elevated to the level of a magic character. In many small rural towns, people still have his image in their living room, often adorned with dried palms obtained at the beginning of the Holy Week. A friend told me how he remembered that, as a kid, he traveled to the llanos to visit some family. His uncle took him to a very modest living room and showed him a picture. Do you know who that is? A great man, John “Fiyeral” Kennedy.

So now, it is Chavez turn to be “eternal”. He has wanted that eternity all along. He has been extremely skillful in tapping into the collective imagination and understanding that the Venezuelan people do not like just a leader or someone that would provide for an efficient government. They want someone they can fell in love with, and pray to. They want that magic that has, all through history, been so unfortunate for Venezuela.

This time is no exception.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


On the diversity of Venezuela opposition.

[Originally posted in Venezuela news and Views]

The government of President Hugo Chavez has been incredibly effective in selling his figure as the champion of social justice, a modern Robin Hood that takes from the rich to distribute among the poor. The official spinners have even initiated a government sponsored campaign to nominate Hugo Chavez for the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile, the government has also been very successful in the way they market their portrait of the Venezuelan opposition.

First, anyone dissenting from the Chavista discourse is branded as an “oligarch”. This, of course, is a myth, but it is one that is quite difficult to remove. In fact, if all those millions of people that signed to conduct the Revocatory Referendum belonged to the “oligarchy”, Venezuela would be a very prosperous country, which is, unfortunately, not the case. Let us assume that the official results of the Referendum are correct. Then we would have 40% of dissident “oligarchs”. In that context, the notion of “oligarchy” loses all its significance.

The second tag that Chavistas usually assign to any dissenting voice is that of “right-wing”. When one tries to explain that among the opposition there are well known figures from the left, those that have bought the Chavistas propaganda have no idea how to rebuke that claim. Most people, especially from the international press prefer to overlook that detail and perpetuate the false tagging. The Chavistas have also capitalized on the radicalization of the world public opinion by selling an incorrect mathematical statement: since Chavez is against Bush and Bush is right-wing then those that are against Chavez must be right wing as well.

Another adjective that is quite often used by the Chavistas against the dissenting members of society is that of “fascists”. I have always had difficulty understanding what exactly they mean when they use that insult. A quick Google search indicates that a “fascist” is a “reactionary and dictatorial person”. Would that mean that anyone that opposes a regime that is getting closer to a dictatorship have to be coined dictatorial itself?

The truth is that the opposition is composed of millions of people from very diverse backgrounds and political beliefs. There are people from the left, from the right, rich people as well as poor people. Those are Venezuelans that are fed up of six years of divisions, attacks, persecutions and bad government. They are the ones that, despite their diversity, have one common belief: that a democratic system has to be “continuously” democratic and that it should never be transformed into an autocratic regime. They are the real opposition.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Some “Positive Notes” from the Bolivarian Government .

[Originally posted in Venezuela news and Views]

One of my favorite resources to know what the government of Chavez is thinking is the official web page of the ministry of information. There is a section that I particularly like that provides good news in Chavista terms that is called “positive notes”.

Here is a sample of two “positive” notes that I found today.

MVR will send missions to America in favor of Chavez

An international crusade will be launched by the MVR to support President Chavez position with respect to the diplomatic conflict with Colombia that has taken place after the kidnapping in Caracas of the FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Granda. This was announced Monday by the director of the government party William Lara.

He also indicated that the “Comando Tactico Nacional”, the highest directive instance of the MVR approved yesterday the creation of work groups that will travel to the United States and other countries of America to deepen the relationship with social and popular organizations of the continent and defend both the country and the president position.

So, get prepared for the MVR spinning visit. The latest declarations must have been very damaging if the MVR feels that there is the need to send their spin doctors up North. I wonder if among the social and popular organizations to be lobbied there will be some women’s group and if they can convince Condoleezza Rice that Chavez was "just kidding".

The government will provide training in military strategies to the peasants.

The intervention process in public and private lands will be the base for 147000 of the 300000 trained in the mission “Vuelvan Caras” to form agricultural and industrial cooperatives in the new regions that will be developed this year.

The minister of Popular Economy, Elias Jaua, announced that those people will not only perform a social work by developing the fields, but they will also will carry out the defense of the national sovereignty since they will occupy lands that have been abandoned and that are now in hands of armed paramilitary groups .

For this reason, Jaua expressed that the peasants will receive the necessary military training to be able to defend their lands.

One of the most damaging aspects of the Chavez government is the militarization of the democratic institutions and the fact that the government has been arming the Bolivarian circles and allowing groups like the FARC to operate freely in Venezuela. So now the “good news” is that even the peasants will get military training.

Monday, January 24, 2005


The Granda Saga Continues

[Originally posted in Venezuela News and Views]

El Universal reports today the latest comments of President Hugo Chavez regarding the Granda affair. He affirmed that the crisis was provoked by Washington. He said that the kidnapping was not planned in Bogotá but that it is part of the “imperialist strategy to stop South American integration”. He warned President Bush that “if that trend continues he will bite the dust of the defeat, once more, guaranteed, they will not be able to beat us”. He also tried to make a bet with Bush and said in English “I bet, I bet, Mr. Bush. One dollar, is the following, who has longer here, that’s OK, no more, no more Mr. Bush” and then explained the bet in Spanish . “I have two years left before reelection and now he (Bush) has the advantage because he was elected for four years and I have two left and I am the candidate for the 2006 elections. I bet one dollar to see who will be the most lasting president, he in the White House or me in Miraflores”.

He threatened to freeze the relations with Colombia if president Uribe does not accept that he made a mistake and insures that the actions like the Granda kidnapping will not be repeated.

He also talked about Condoleezza Rice. He called her again “Condolencia” [Condolences] and suggested that he would send the alphabetization method “Yo si Puedo” [yes, I can] to her since “she is showing to be a complete analphabet”. Then , he added [this is verbatim] “it seems that she dreams about me. I am almost willing to invite her to a reunion to see what happens with me. She said that she was sad and depressed by Chavez. Ay papa! She better forgets about me. What a bad luck that lady has. I will not make that sacrifice for the country, someone else should make it, Cristobal Jimenez, Nicolas Maduro, Juan Barreto that is a bachelor”.

Today was supposed to be my first day as a bloghost, and I was wondering what should I write about. Fortunately, Chavez makes the job quite easy. What can I say? I think that his comments speak for themselves.

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