Saturday, June 04, 2005


Who is afraid of Sumate?

[Originally posted in Venezuela News and Views]

In a previous post, I wrote that one of the first milestones that took me out of my political lethargy was the persecution of the Sumate directive. It made no sense to me then and it makes no sense to me now that the government would spend precious time and resources persecuting Sumate for receiving a small foreign grant. It makes no sense either that they dusted an old Juan Vicente Gomez article of the Penal Code and kept it there so that the Sumate directive could be put in jail for 8 to 16 years if found guilty. And, finally, it makes no sense that they react in such a visceral manner every time Sumate makes the news and that top government officials, and even the President, get out of their way to publicly voice vicious verbal attacks against the Sumate directive.

The question is why? Why do they pay so much attention to Sumate? Why are they so afraid of Sumate?

The answer is that the people of Sumate are efficient and effective, and the government is not. They are quite different from the old opposition political entities that can be as incompetent as the government. Sumate delivers and the government knows it. Sumate is Chavez’s real threat.

Sumate is composed of a particular generation of people; a generation of prepared, intelligent, dynamic Venezuelans. They represent what did not go wrong in the old Venezuela. It was a class of highly educated people that were quite aware of the social problems created by the previous generations but who had optimism and a drive to make things change. And good change can come only with a very strict respect of rights and freedoms.

When Chavez stepped in, he had all the popularity, all the powers to make use of that wonderful resource that was left from the old Venezuela. The tragic reality is that he has not even realized it yet. In what is probably the worse mistake made by any ruler in the history of Venezuela, he disposed of that class of people as non-entities and has always rejected their skills and their knowledge. His revolution has been only capable of divisions and destruction; it has been incapable to build up from what were the good elements of the old Venezuela.

First, a subtle apartheid system, never before experienced in Venezuela, was slowly put in place. Those against the revolutionary process started to feel that their views made a difference in the workplace. Before long, Chavez divisive style of government induced a head on confrontation with the most important Venezuelan industry. 20000 people were fired from it: not ten, not a hundred, not a thousand. There were twenty thousand people that were not only fired, but also denied their basic labor rights, and who are still today blacklisted from working ever again in their field. From the human side, many lives were shattered while the government managed, overnight, to get rid of millions of man-years of education, training and Venezuelan know-how.

So, a large part of the population realized that the subtle apartheid was not so subtle anymore. That Chavez meant business, and that he would not stop at anything to retain power by any means. The division of the country and the risk of a civil war were not enough reasons for him to step down. Quite the opposite, he kept and still keeps, his divisive inflammatory discourse to put Venezuelans against Venezuelans.

But Venezuelans are fighters. One must not forget that South American independence from the mighty kingdom of Spain started and came from Venezuela. And this new generation of well prepared Venezuelans found their way to fight for their rights and freedoms; they used the law, their organizational skills and their signatures. Sumate was thus born to find a constitutional solution to the political crisis.

It was not easy. The government can claim in the web page of their US propaganda office VIO that the referendum was going to be a wonderful demonstration of democracy at work, but the reality is that they fought every step of the way, by all means, the holding of that referendum. Moreover, they have blacklisted all those that signed the referendum petition and created a de-facto state of Political Apartheid in Venezuela (see What did Chavez know and when did he know it?).

That, of course, does not appear in the cheerful VIO webpage.

But I digress.

So who is afraid of Sumate? Chavez is. Because he knows that they are a mightier enemy than the good old boys of AD or Copei. He knows that Sumate has the potential to expose to the world the undemocratic face of his revolution.

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