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"Experts" on Venezuela who have never been in the country

By Gustavo Coronel

(January 7, 2004) I am vacationing in the area of Washington D.C., a city where there are dozens of small and big think tanks of every conceivable political tendency. Most have reasonable amounts of money and are very active. In the past two weeks I have had the opportunity of talking to some of the members of what I would define as a leftist think tank and I have heard some of the things they have to say about Venezuela and its current political crisis. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of these self-defined experts in Venezuela is that, two of the three I spoke with, have never been in Venezuela, while the third has not been there during the last 10 years. Their knowledge of what has been going on in our country is almost exclusively based on secondary or, even, tertiary sources. It is also a knowledge highly influenced by political ideology. In other words, these three bright intellectuals prefer to feed on whatever Venezuelan news fit best their ideological prejudices.

In spite of this dishonest bias, they agree that there is a "Venezuelan political, economic and social crisis." They do not pretend to argue that Hugo Chávez's government has served to put the country in the road to stability. They agree that Venezuela today is in chaos. However, they see this chaos as essential if the country is ever going to really change. They claim that this is what a revolution is all about. In fact, they criticize Chávez for pretending to conduct a "peaceful" revolution since there is no such a thing. "All revolutions are violent", these scholars claim, "and Venezuela cannot be an exception." They seem to believe that a revolution, which does not bring about death and blood, cannot be properly labeled as one. After all, this is what they have read in the books.

Under Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has not yet erupted in open violence and in bloodshed. In fact, under Hugo Chávez, Venezuela has not really undergone a revolution but this is not something that the "experts" realize. From the distance, from K Street or Georgetown, they are unable to see that the Venezuelan poor are now poorer, that the Venezuelan street children are more numerous. From Washington D.C., they cannot smell the garbage piling up in the streets of Venezuela or witness the daily suffering of the unemployed. The social tragedy of Venezuela is largely glossed over by these "experts," who are much more interested in the ideological and political components of the so called Venezuelan "revolution" than in the daily and real suffering of the Venezuelan people. They have fell in the trap of considering a real country, Venezuela, as a pawn or a knight in a political game of chess being played by intellectuals all over the world. These "experts" talk of losing Libya but winning Bolivia, they rejoice in taking progressive control of Indonesia even while losing Iraq. For them the countries of the world are mere pieces in a game, not real countries full of people who work or do not work, who eat or starve, who die or survive every day. It is understandable that the opinions of these " experts" should be totally divorced from the real day-to-day life of the people of the countries they claim to be "experts" in.

After talking to them I left feeling very depressed. These nice, harmless, well meaning intellectuals, have constructed a Venezuela, within the walls of beautiful downtown Washington, which is not at all like the country where I live, the country where I have to face, everyday, the horrors of ineptness and indifference which characterize the so called "bolivarian revolution." When I go back to my house of Sabana del Medio, near the small village of Barrera, I will bring back with me the memory of these intelligent men, in downtown Washington, poring over selected Venezuelan news, so that they can find out if their ideological model of a world is a bit closer to being realized.

I can tell you now and save you time and money: it is not.

© 2003 Gustavo Coronel

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