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Why I will vote YES next Sunday, August 15th

By Gustavo Coronel, August 11, 2004

As the presidential referendum gets very near in Venezuela, I have intensified my efforts to understand the other side, that side of the population that would like to see the current president keep his job. My sense of indignation for the Venezuelan dismal social and economic situation has obscured my capacity to understand how anyone, in his or her right mind would want to keep a president who exhibits such a mediocre and inept performance. I would like to force all of them to see the statistics on unemployment, on extreme poverty, on crime, so that they can see with their own eyes the disaster our country has become in the hands of the current president. But this rational approach does not seem to make an impact on most of the people who want to keep him. In fact, they seem to know all of this already. They know the man and his friends are keeping enormous amounts of money in their pockets, they know that there are more abandoned children in the streets, they know that the government does not govern, they see the garbage piling up in front of their homes.

What we have to understand is that they do not really consider these tragic problems as the determinant priorities for immediate solution in their Venezuela. The main priority for them is to keep winning, to stay on top, to exclude those who used to exclude them, to satisfy their yearnings for newly acquired social status. It is not that they are insensible to the miseries they see around them. It is, rather, that, perhaps for the first time in their lives, they are not the ones taking the full impact of the tragedy. Now the middle classes, the business sector, the church, the media, the organized labor unions, the professional sector, are taking the major negative impact of the savage decline in quality of life of Venezuelans.

As I understand their motivations better my feelings of hostility against them have subsided. I got close to hate them and I am ashamed of that. What I feel now is sadness and compassion. When I look at the eyes of those who want to keep Chávez in power I can feel, in most of them, the same intrinsic kindness that I see in "my" Venezuelans, a kindness that has been smothered by fear and by the hateful harangues of the demagogue. They are not my enemies but poor children of a country that rarely had good fortune with their leaders. The irregular quality of leadership has produced a pendulum like political process which is now, temporarily at the side of the populist and the inept, but which will eventually swing back. What I would like to see, rather than this pendular motion that makes us cyclical winners and losers, is a concerted effort for all of us to push ahead, all winners.

Coming back to what will take place next Sunday, the reasons for my voting YES are rooted in family and school education. I have to be true to the creed I have sustained for a lifetime, built around the following beliefs:

* People should have the right but, even more so, the duty to educate ourselves, to become all what we can become. This calls for personal effort and equal opportunities but not for privileged treatment.

* People should lead by example, not try to lead with rhetoric. We are not who we say we are but we are what we do.

* Private property is sacred. Anyone who attempts to invade and steal what belongs to others is a criminal and should be treated as one.

* Government can only be legitimate if it is a government for all. A regime, which excludes important portions of society from decision-making, which will influence their lives, is not a legitimate government and has no legitimate claim to power.

* We shall not beg. Whatever we can obtain in the world of material and spiritual riches should come as a product of our honest efforts, not through adulation or corrupted commercial mechanisms. A beggar is the lowest possible form of human life. The act of begging is an act of degradation. Therefore, I will earnestly combat a political regime, which bases its power in its capacity to promote beggars, by distributing non-earned wealth among the members of society to buy their loyalty.

* We should not yield in the small things related to honesty because he, she who yields in the small things inevitably ends up by yielding in the big things. This is the origin of widespread corruption in societies with authoritarian governments, where accountability does not exist. This government has received over USD $150 billion in the last five years. They have not bothered to tell us where they are.

* A president should be a dignified person, a role model who should set an example of honesty, decor and greatness at all times.

* A president should fulfill his, her promises. If not, he, she is not worthy of their people.

* A president should be humble, not an egocentric demagogue.

* The income of a government should translate into more income, better schools, more employment, more hospitals and roads. If there is no logical relationship between the monies a government has received and the benefits to the nation, then, the government is inept or corrupt, or both (almost always both).

* A true democratic government should be respectful of political and social dissidents.

The current government fails each one and all of the tests contained in these eleven points. Therefore I will vote yes next Sunday to throw the president out. I believe that this man is not just an ordinary, bad president. He is a criminal president and, as such, should eventually be brought to justice.

In doing this I exercise my duty as a citizen, trying to preserve our nation in the best possible social and economic shape. If we are successful in ousting this unworthy president from power, we have to make an all concerted effort to insure that real and effective measures are taken to convert our poor, our ignorant, our dependent population into active, self-starting citizens. This is the main task that awaits whatever government Venezuela has in the future.

If we fall short on Sunday, well, we will just keep our fight until we prevail. In the words of Robert Frost:

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep
but I have promises to keep
and miles before I go to sleep,
and miles before I go to sleep."

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