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Venezuela: Twenty-first century socialism

By Carlos Alberto Montaner | Firmas Press

07.08.05 | Chávez is in labor. He has said that his country is giving birth to twenty-first century socialism. What is that, exactly? Permit me to explain. Cuban international TV recently showed a group of cheerful Venezuelan military officers. They were led by brigadier general Eduardo Centeno, director of the Venezuelan army's military academy, the Escuela Superior del Ejército de Venezuela. Apparently, they were in Cuba to observe the maneuvers of some old Soviet tanks ready to vanquish Yankee imperialism and to entertain and be entertained by Fidel Castro during a military ceremony at which they exchanged gifts and revolutionary slogans. At one point, the Venezuelan soldiers, deeply moved, sang the anthem.

It is hard to believe that the Venezuelan soldiers were really impressed by the exercises of their Cuban comrades, but there is another lesson that was surely more profitable for these officers: they understood exactly of what the Cuban model consists, this twenty-first century socialism that lieutenant-colonel Chávez is drawing from his bowels. They noticed that in Cuba, the power structure is made up of a dictator at the top, surrounded by military personnel who hold political power, who control the forces of repression and who direct and manage the large productive enterprises. In Cuba, the military is the head, the heart, and the stomach of the system, whereas society is nothing but a cheap, docile labor force at the service of the military's whims and fancies.

I suppose that many Venezuelan military staff liked what they saw in Cuba. They found a way of putting themselves at the top of the social pyramid, and, in addition, to feel that they are the heroes and lead characters of a glorious historical exploit. Chávez will lead them on the path to privilege, wealth, and social supremacy. When the system is consolidated, they will be the dominant caste, they will lead lives in splendor, better than the rest of the Venezuelans, they will be feared and respected as is the case with high-ranking Cuban officers. Nobody will be able to criticize them in public, and anybody who does so in private can be accused of disrespect before tribunals where other harsh military officers will pronounce judgment. The military officers will be immune and will go unpunished.

This is twenty-first century socialism: a mixture of an autocratic dictatorship, collectivism and militarization of the power structures. Little by little, the tongs of authoritarianism will continue squeezing Venezuelan society until they have crushed the press, squashed the free unions, controlled the centers of learning and silenced the church and the other forces of civil society.

Where will this Cuban-Venezuelan axis lead us? Given the constructivist rage of Chávez, who never stops reorganizing the world according to his creative outbursts, it is very likely that at some point he will try to launch a confederation between the two countries, but only as a first step towards this idiotic, multinational Bolivarian scheme that has been growing beneath his beret like a tumor.

The confederation could then go on cloning itself sweetly with the incorporation of other gang members of the hopeful revolutionary strain: Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua or any other adventurer who appears in Ecuador or Peru. The issue is quite simple: they already have the model and the discourse. Once in power, the soldiers will build the prison cells and everyone will sail towards the sea of happiness, as Chávez once defined the Cuban experience. This is twenty-first century socialism. [Translated by John E.]

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