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Venezuela’s New Independence

By Alexandra Beech,

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America

People often reject their governments for similar reasons: because their rights have been violated, such as the right to a free and representative government with a strong and independent judiciary and legislative branch; because their lives are in danger; because they don’t agree with the use of their taxes; or simply because they believe that their leader has failed to represent their best interests.

When thirteen colonies of the United States rejected King George III of Great Britain in 1776, they were not seeking sovereignty for the sake of sovereignty. The Declaration of Independence was the last recourse in a series of attempts to achieve an efficient government, legislative representation, and an autonomous judiciary.

Today, many in Venezuela’s opposition reject President Hugo Chavez for many of the reasons that led the thirteen colonies to reject King George III. When Hugo Chavez:

- campaigned for, and gained a majority in the Constituent Assembly which obeyed his every whim;

- campaigned for, and gained a majority in the National Assembly which obeyed his every whim;

- passed 49 laws with little public consultation which changed the country’s main industries;

- encouraged and turned a blind eye to the invasion and expropriation of private property;

- based the disbursement of federal funds to governships according to political loyalty;

- appointed an attorney general and a public defender who only defended his views;

- bribed the military with a special “loyalty bonus” which surpassed their own salaries;

- allowed dangerous foreign aggressors such as guerrillas to camp in the country’s borders;

- ordered the firing of 18,000 state company employees who dissented from his views;

- threatened foreign companies who could employed the 18,000 workers;

- controlled the Supreme Court, which then appointed his supporters as a majority in the electoral council;

- ordered his lawmakers to draft or pass laws that would pack the Supreme Court and limit press freedoms;

- invited and paid thousands of Cubans to fill positions as unemployed Venezuelans languished;

- ordered the military to shoot unarmed civilians as they marched or protested demanding change;

- ordered the firing of public employees who dissented from his government by signing for a referendum;

- rewarded loyalty by promotions in the military and government, regardless of merit or talent;

- generated hatred against other free nations, including the United States and Great Britain;

- generated hatred and attacks against the privately owned media when it criticized him;

- forced television networks to broadcast hours of his speeches and campaigns;

- cavorted with tyrants like Fidel Castro, then labeled the opposition as “coup-plotters” and “terrorists”;

- blamed past governments and the opposition for his own failures and shortcomings;

- threatened to burn the loose fibers of democracy which bound the country together;

The opposition had no other choice but to seek a democratic and peaceful change.

Needless to say, the opposition has made many mistakes. But that is because the opposition does not represent one party; nor does it represent one leader, one ideology, or one doctrine.

Like the early colonists in the US, the opposition is comprised of anyone who rejects “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”

Going forward, the opposition will face many challenges. For the first time in history, Venezuela’s poor majority will not accept mediocrity, nor will they pretend to be invisible as a small minority benefits from the country’s vast wealth. Future presidents who fail to address poverty will also face being revoked. Chavez, a young, charismatic and energetic leader, will continue to challenge contenders at the poll, and poor Venezuelans will not forget that they were once promised free land, food, medicine, and education. Even if many did not receive these, the Bolivarian Revolution’s promises will ring in their ears for years to come.

Future governments will have to fulfill these expectations or perish.

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