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Venezuela: when did chavismo become a creed?

By Aleksander Boyd

London 02 August 2004 – Try and arrange a séance with a Palestinian and a Jew and have them convince one another of the infallibility of the opponent’s religious, political and territorial perspective; impossible? You bet! Years of conflict and intrigue have thrust an impenetrable layer of mistrust that, from my humble viewpoint, will not dissolve in a very long time. Now experiment with a non-Venezuelan chavista and anyone who opposes Chavez, the result is likely to be quite the same I must say.

Some time ago we had friends for dinner. She is Colombian and the husband is an Eton educated Englishman. Over delicious dishes we started talking about the situation here in England and that of Colombia and Venezuela. Our English friend spent no less than half an hour hammering bitterly the policies of Tony Blair and the permissiveness that, in his view, have converted this country into a pool of foreign parasites that come to the land to profit from the welfare state. He resented the fact that he had to work very hard and pay lots of taxes to enjoy a semi decent living in London whilst “bloody refuge seekers” from abroad were given housing and benefits for free. Inference to the pathetic situation of this country due to the “wasting of public monies in refugee seekers’ welfare” was sufficiently made by him. We then move on to Venezuela and Colombia. Here again the self righteousness of our very well educated friend was outstanding. I should spare the discussion between husband (English) and wife (Colombian) about Pastrana, the Cachacos and the guerrilla. However when we touched upon the subject of Chavez I could not stand his humbug anymore. I just asked where he was gathering such biased and false information and, of course, the Guardian and the BBC came on top of the list. That day I realised for the first time that Chavez has become, effectively, the modern day Robin Hood.

The man is a legend, as far as the knowledge of my interlocutor went. He has made education his priority; he is teaching the poor to read and write and now schools are free; he’s giving them land; he’s redistributing the oil wealth that for years was controlled by a few he said… I was in shock, mind you having to hear such nonsense in my own house. I debated him on the subject explaining that education in Venezuela was free well before Chavez ascent to power; I quoted the programmes of “Fe y Alegria” and “ACUDE” which were quite successful prior to the “Misiones;” I said to him that the Venezuelan State owns 54% of the land yet Chavez promotes invasions to private land; moreover the recipients of land -Chinese tractors were given to some of them- have yet to produce crops; and the redistribution of the oil wealth, well there things got truly interesting for I reminded him of his own opinion about the welfare state. It did not matter the fact that he contradicted himself so evidently, that did not dent in the slightest his admiration towards Chavez. Thus I said “so in your view it’s disgusting for Blair’s government to give away all that money to those useless refuge seekers, who do not make the token effort to get a job, but Chavez is worth of your total veneration for doing exactly the same, i.e. wasting money and giving it away to the poor and dispossessed” silence… Quite comfy to judge things from the distance, isn’t it?

The shocking thing about those infatuated with Chavez is that, when confronted with facts, they simply dismiss them as spin. When reality does not fit the fairy tale of Robin Hood they’ll have none of it; sadder still a man educated in Eton… In this short but intense adventure of mine into Venezuelan politics reporting I have come across a staggering number of educated people, that otherwise would pass as knowledgeable, whose sheer ignorance about the topic is just impossible to withstand. One can forgive the poor people from the barrios from sympathising with Chavez merely due to his charisma and populist flair, but learned individuals?

The conclusions that I have reached is that human beings are naturally prone to sympathise and support the underdog, regardless of criminal track records. Furthermore there is absolutely nothing more appealing than a Robin Hood-like figure that is meant to ‘steal from the rich to give to the poor.’ For this tale to be accepted and flirted with it has to develop itself in a far away land. Gordon Brown taxing the middle class and the rich to give to those less fortunate is nothing short of criminal. Chavez on the other hand destroying Venezuela’s economy to advance his ‘revolution’ is all nice and dandy. Facts; do they clash with idealistic conceptions of a given character? Yes? Let us ignore them. Failures with complexes of inferiority and filled with hate, and envy, towards the rich see Chavez as the embodiment of social justice, he is the new Messiah.

When the conversation finally moved to oil, my interlocutor was quick in pointing out that the US wanted to do an ‘Iraq manoeuvre’ in Venezuela to which I replied that the US was getting the entirety of our production anyway, without the hassle of having to pump it out; that oil conglomerates were given by Chavez advantageous exploration and exploitation contracts in Plataforma Deltana; that Cuba was receiving more than 50.000 BPD for free and that Chavez in his megalomanic dream of enjoying absolute control of PDVSA sacked the best and brightest oil execs which caused the permanent lost of output that will have an impact in his social spending spree in the mid term. He went mute again for lack of knowledge. I concluded saying that Big Oil is patiently waiting for PDVSA to become near inoperative to then pick up the phone and dictate the rules to the pariah, who by then –if still in power- will be so strapped for cash that in order to maintain his political persona will cede anything to be ceded in order to continue with his ‘revolution.’ Not content with utterly failing in the defence of his Venezuelan hero he said that poor people in the US lived worse than Cubans, fortunately the wife was sensible enough to tell him they had to leave…

People believe in deities with such fanatism that one could think that they exist even though we all know that they don’t. Similarly the belief professed by some to Chavez has the characteristics of religious veneration. That he is an impostor and a criminal matters not to the faithful.

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