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In Venezuela: The time of the Barbarians

By Gustavo Coronel

March 22, 2005 | "Madness is the incessant repetition of the same process, expecting to obtain different results." Albert Einstein

One of the greatest enemies of progress in today's Venezuela is the ignorance exhibited by its political leadership about what it truly takes to develop society. In the Venezuela of Hugo Chávez, ideological dogma has replaced open discussion; authority prevails over the search for truth; militarization is smothering civilization. The laws are disposed of, whenever they do not suit the objectives of the messianic leader. The essential questions about how to move Venezuela forward are not being discussed among Venezuelans in a civilized atmosphere, as democracy dictates, nor are they being seriously analyzed in the reduced circle of the strongman, too busy pursuing purely political objectives.

Ignorance of what it takes to govern has produced, during the last six years, a major social and economic catastrophe in our country. All main social and economic indices have deteriorated dramatically: unemployment, inflation, poverty and crime are up while labor productivity, competitiveness, health and education are down, as documented by domestic and international organizations. Venezuelans are again suffering of diseases that had been controlled decades ago. There are thousands of new cases of malaria. An epidemic of Leptospirosis, a rare disease produced by waters contaminated with animal urine, has appeared in the central portion of the country. Scabies and lice are making a triumphal return! The regime is now forcing radio stations to broadcast native music in preference to foreign music, even classical. Tropical drums and "joropos" are replacing Beethoven, as if they could not co-exist peacefully and provide pleasure as required by a free listener. There are projects of laws on education, almost certainly to be passed in the Chávez controlled legislature, which are not only poorly written, a cardinal sin in the realm of education, but designed to promote the political indoctrination of Venezuelan children. Behind these totalitarian initiatives in education is the hand of Fidel Castro, who seems determined to leave behind an ideological clone. He is fattening his own "Dolly."

The great volumes of oil money available to Chávez are largely being misused in expensive political propaganda and in flooding the poor with easy money. The current regime is making no attempts at establishing structural solutions to Venezuelan poverty. Instead, it utilizes a perverse strategy of handouts in the form of subsidies, cash payments to followers of the regime and military/police protection to squatters who settle into private lands. This strategy is creating a society of physical beggars and spiritual slaves. It represents the opposite of what a real strategy for social development should be, that which promotes self-reliance and builds confidence and self-esteem. Instead of creating citizens, the Chávez regime is creating a dependent mob. Instead of promoting the creation of a new middle class, he is going after the existing middle class with resentment, since this is the sector in which education and love of democracy are firmly entrenched.

Unfortunately, this process is progressing before the eyes of largely indifferent global witnesses. This is understandable. Every country and every society are experiencing their own problems, some of them even more tragic than Venezuela's. Someone has said that at least Venezuelans have the beach and baseball as effective ways to escape the gloom that inevitably accompanies a dictatorship. Many of them remain passive, like the frog placed in a tub of water that grows hotter progressively. That frog ends up cooked, while it would jump out of the tub if the water were heated abruptly. The progressive conversion of Venezuela, from a democracy into a dictatorship, is now essentially complete.

This is not the first time Venezuelans have suffered this type of tyranny. In fact, the democratic interlude of almost 50 years, starting in 1958, came after more than 140 years of petty dictators, warlords and caudillos who presided over social and political chaos.

Is Chávez the starting point of a new cycle of authoritarianism and primitive political leadership? I doubt it. Our previous dictators had no desire to be leaders of the world. Guzman Blanco loved only the French, Cipriano Castro loved women, Gómez loved cattle and Perez Jimenez loved money. Chávez is not moved by greed but by a pathological desire for control and by resentment. He is a character more akin to the Mahdi, the desert rebel who appeared by the shores of the Nile and cut Gordon's head in Khartoum at the end of the 19th century. Chávez is a fanatic and, as such, he has pretensions of extending his "revolution" much beyond the borders of Venezuela. Right now, his Minister of Information, Andres Izarra, is publicly bragging that Venezuelan spies and informers have infiltrated U.S. society and even the U.S. intelligence services. Chávez is traveling all over the world, at the expense of Venezuelans, to muster a global coalition against the U.S., which he defines as a terrorist state.

Chávez is already engaged in World War IV. In this suicidal mission, which cannot end well, he uses Venezuelan national resources which are badly needed for the development of Venezuelans: he has given, almost for free, millions of barrels of oil to Fidel Castro; will do similar "transactions" with other countries in the region in order to buy their political loyalties; has bought USD $500 million in Argentine debt, a politically inspired transaction for which there was no budgetary provisions; is spending billions of dollars in buying assault rifles from Russia, military transport aircraft from Spain, combat and transport helicopters from Russia, guided-missile corvettes (warships) from Spain, armored troop carriers from Europe, light attack aircraft and trainers from Brazil, and more. On top of this, Chávez is trying to get rid of CITGO, simply to divest of a U.S. based company. This wild financial and political spree is becoming the object of great attention by countries which are no longer amused but alarmed.

As a Venezuelan citizen, with a legitimate claim to participate in the shaping of my country's future, I am firmly opposed to this manner of rule and to this stupid squandering of our national assets. Some of the journalists that Chávez keeps on his payroll (only the Venezuelan Information Office, controlled by the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., spends more than USD $600,000 per year in the hiring of ideas) have taken to the press to call me a traitor. Speaking on behalf of Venezuelans who are suffering today the indignities and humiliations of living in a police state cannot make me a traitor. I do no advocate killing Mr. Chávez or promote foreign invasions to my country. The next to last invasion Venezuela suffered was ordered in the 1960's by Fidel Castro and done by the Cuban military. It ended in defeat. The last invasion of Venezuela is taking place at this moment, also led by Fidel Castro but now with the complacent approval of the Venezuelan current regime: there are more than 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela, acting as security forces, bodyguards for the regime, political indoctrinators, sport trainers and a few voodoo witches. The Venezuelan regime opened the doors for them. This I oppose. I find it unacceptable that a Venezuelan government should, against the will of the Venezuelan people, become a satellite of an isolated dictatorial regime and adopt the ways of a less advanced, ruined and sad society.

In trying to conduct a global revolution, in alignment with other totalitarian leaders, Chávez will find that is trying to chew more than he can swallow.

Unfortunately, the main victims of his tragic pretensions will be the Venezuelan people.



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