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Venezuela’s tornados

By Veneconomy

27.07.05 | The tornado is not a common atmospheric phenomenon in Venezuela, and as far as anyone can remember, the one that occurred on July 19 in Altos de Cambural de San Bernardino, a hamlet in Anzoátegui state, was the first in at least two centuries.

But in the land of the 5th Republic, no one is amazed that such an unusual phenomenon has occurred, and one of such an unpredictably destructive force to boot, because the government has already accustomed people to political, legal, economic, and social tornados as part of the daily round. The tornado in Anzoátegui is a simile for what happens daily in Venezuela nowadays. The tornado of events taking place in the country at such dizzying speed is of such magnitude that it is impossible to keep track of everything. Just a few examples will suffice:

First we have the tornados of polemical laws that the government coalition benches are producing like flies in the National Assembly, with the sole purpose of equipping the government for the “nice” revolution’s final attack. At the moment, there are more than 40 bills scheduled for debate before the close of the present session of parliament on September 15, when the campaign for the elections of deputies, to be held in December, will start. The President has already got some of the most controversial laws: the Central Bank Law, which enables him to dispose of the international reserves as he wishes, and the dozens of laws that seek to tighten the stranglehold on the private sector, e.g. the Gag Law, the Lands Law, the Criminal Code, and the Basic Law on Prevention, Working Conditions, and Work Environment (LOPCYMAT). However, there are more in the pipeline, among them the Foreign Exchange Crimes Law (already passed and now only awaiting the official rubber stamp), the law regulating credit cards, the law on banks, and further amendments to the Criminal Code.

The second tornado is the existence of outlaw security forces -something that can no longer be denied- that commit crimes and take justice into their own hands. The massacre of the students at Kennedy is one of the most publicized cases, but sadly not the only one. There are reports of more than 3,500 people who have been murdered by the police over the past five years.

The third is juridical insecurity, not only for people who are being persecuted for their political beliefs, but also for the man in the street and companies, for whom the game rules are changed to suit the powers that be, resulting in the imposing of unfair, illegal penalties and tax fines, as happened with Shell (Bs.281 billion) and the small company Harvest Vinccler (Bs.188 billion) based on the argument that they are “oil companies” (subject to a higher rate of tax, the oil industry rate) and not service contractors (subject to the lower company tax).

Tornados of the fourth type are the reports of corruption in the main state-owned companies. PDVSA is the most visible example, but far from the only one. Other cases worth mentioning are the scandal in the revived Bandagro and its fabricated promissory notes and, more recently, “La Vuelta,” the factoring scandal in Zulia involving losses for entire families that could run into hundreds of millions of dollars.

The fifth tornado has to do with the upcoming elections, which are apparently vitiated with innumerable violations of the law and the Constitution, and where secrecy of the vote is a thing of the past and cases of people casting more than one vote are our daily bread.

Type six tornados are the disproportionate and totally unfounded insults hurled at anyone perceived as being an opponent, whether he goes by the name of George W. Bush, Rosalio Castillo Lara or Súmate, where the custom is to attack the messenger when there is no way of refuting the charges being made.

And finally, although this does not exhaust the list of Bolivarian tornados, we have the new voice of the revolution in South America and the Caribbean, the controversial television station, Telesur, which started broadcasting with anti-imperialist and anti-Semitic messages on July 25. When a country suffers tornados such as these, what chances are there for a stone to be left standing?

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