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Hello world: This is half of the Venezuelan people speaking

By Gustavo Coronel* reprinted from Petroleum World

We are white, black or brown. We are poor, affluent or rich. We are highly cultured or largely ignorant. We are self-employed, employed or largely unemployed. We make up half of Venezuelan society and we oppose the current president, Hugo Chavez. Instead of listening to us, instead of respecting our right to dissent, as required from a democratic leader, Chavez has chosen to neglect us, to antagonize us, to insult and to exclude us. To judge from his long harangues over radio and TV we are non-persons, we are the culprits of all national ills; we do not deserve to be recognized as valid participants in national processes. Apart from this attitude being preposterous, it is suicidal. It is the equivalent to trying to run a baseball team in which four of the players are systematically browbeaten by the manager and told, in front of the other players, that they are a bunch of no good sewer rats. Such a team cannot win. It will never win. The manager of such a team has only two options: he leaves the team or he sincerely tries to inspire all the players to do their best. This last option is the proper task of the manager.

During the last six years the president of our nation has been the main factor in the promotion of our social disintegration. The question is: Why? Can he really believe this is the way to run the country? If he thinks so, he is tragically mistaken, in spite of what Fidel tells him. Although he benefits from an unparalleled stream of dollars derived from high oil prices, Venezuelan or international private investment remains at an all time low, unemployment at an all time high, crime rates have become terrifying and more abandoned children than ever roam the streets of our cities. Beggars have multiplied and, in the traffic lights of the cities, hundreds of improvised clowns and windshield cleaners compete for a few miserable coins. Venezuela today is a miserable country, something that we had not experienced as a country since the likes of Cipriano Castro or the Monagas brothers were in power, way back in the 19th century.

Power has no other legitimate purpose than that of being used to promote the welfare and happiness of the nation. Power for the sake of power alone is one of the most tragic perversions that can take place in a society. Chavez has been in power for six full years but he has not governed. All statistics point to a clear collapse of our quality of life, as measured in physical terms or, worse, in terms of spiritual well being. We have become a sad and stressed society, thanks to Hugo Chavez. The half of the country that seems to support him, perhaps with the best of intentions, has to understand that they cannot go very far in the road to their social upgrading without the cooperation of the other half. In fact, they could be the ones to teach Chavez this lesson. They could be the deciding factor in obliging Chavez to change their attitude towards the other half. After all, you cannot hope to correct the errors of the past by committing the same errors in the present. Doing this is simply revenge, not improvement.

If Chavez were the real leader that our country needs, he would be behaving in a totally different manner, especially after the referendum. On the 16th of August he should have realized two fundamental things:

1. That one half or more than one half of the country is opposed to him and that he cannot hope to govern without acknowledging this huge and determinant majority? minority? (It does not really matter). To insist in doing so would be proper of a barbarian, but I am almost sure that Mr. Chavez does not want to be classified as such and, rationally, should do all in his power to avoid it.

2. That one half of the country does not trust him and his group. This half of the country has no trust in his immediate collaborators Rangel, Rodriguez Attorney General, Rodriguez PDVSA, Garcia Carneiro, Rincon and so on down the line. Chavez and his group have done nothing to deserve this trust. Their message to our half of Venezuela has been a take or leave it. “If you do not believe in the results of the referendum”, he said recently, “you can take to the hills”, just as Fidel Castro and his followers took to the hills in the 1960’s. Is this the proper approach to persuade the opposition to join the effort to really push ahead? No.

This is the type of attitude that puts the opposition in a fighting mood. Chavez should know that half of the country firmly believes that his regime is inept and corrupt and has a lot of data to support this belief. Rather than saying: “Well, what about it”? he should take pains to explain to the nation what he is doing, how is he doing it and where the oil money is going. Beyond his personal arrogance and natural “pataneria” (untranslatable, something like loutish manners), he has to remember that he is the president of Venezuela, a member country of a civilized group of nations, subject to international law and good manners. He should behave like a civilized statesman. He has the choice, and he is exercising it, to behave like a Paleolithic man of the caverns. It is his choice but he has to pay the price of this choice. The price of this choice is to become an international outcast. Right now it might not seem this way because there are many powerful interests in motion, but the truth cannot be hidden for too long.

The truth will emerge and, then, the world will know the extent of the crime committed by those who forced millions of honest and democratic Venezuelans to stand 15 hours in line to deposit a vote that was probably kidnapped.

Hello World: Half of the Venezuelan population opposed to Chavez wants to put you on notice that our country is heading towards a dark period of arbitrary political rule, a period in which the dissidents will be put in prison with charges which will never be properly documented. The system will work to keep the innocent in prison, just like the Cuban system has kept dissenters in jail for decades. The world will tend to forget. If you are tolerant of Chavez now, you will be a silent partner of the future tragedy. Chavez, as Castro, is no democrat.

Castro fooled you. How many times more will you be fooled? How many millions of innocent citizens will have to suffer because of your tolerant attitudes towards the despots?

Gustavo Coronel is a 28 years oil industry veteran, a member of the first board of directors (1975-1979) of Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), author of several books. At the present Coronel is the opinion-editorial editor of Petroleumworld en Español. Petroleumworld not necessarily share these views.

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