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Chávez's Circus is coming to Washington, D.C.

By Gustavo Coronel

February 26, 2006 | Washington, D.C. is getting ready to receive the Cirque du Soleil in the spring but another kind of circus will arrive in March: The Chávez financed National Solidarity Conference On Venezuela. In contrast with the graceful artists of the Cirque du Soleil this four-day event promoted by the Venezuelan strongman should probably be defined as a Cirque de l'Horreur (excuse my French), to judge by the list of sponsors, which include the All-African Revolutionary Party; diverse "Socialist" organizations; pro-Castro and pro-Sandinista groups; Iranian "cultural" groups and the inevitable Maryknolls, as well as Bolivarian Circles from around the U.S. and agencies such as Global Exchange, which are making a bundle of money conducting badly organized "reality" tours for those who would like to see the new "Socialist" experiment in Caracas. The list of special guests contains well-known members of the group that has been singing the praises of the strongman for some time now: Bill Fletcher, the president of TransAfrica Forum (who compared Chávez with Martin Luther King, Jr.); Eva Golinger, a "professional" collaborator of the government who has been running a "Cuban sponsored" U.S. public relations strategy from the Foreign Ministry in Caracas; Andrés Izarra, president of Telesur, an Aljazeera type satellite TV channel financed by Chávez and, of course, Chávez's Ambassador in Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, always with the checkbook in hand. Among others invited is Harry Belafonte, who recently visited Venezuela, all expenses paid, where he shouted slogans over TV calling Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world" while the main bridge on the Caracas-airport highway was collapsing. Surprisingly Jesse Jackson, Don King, Ramsey Clark, Joseph Kennedy and Danny Glover are not yet listed as invites.

Who will attend this circus? Potential participants belong to several main groups, including: (1), those who get paid to be there; (2), those who hate the U.S. so much that any event where the U.S. becomes the punching ball is of special interest to them; and, (3), those former Sandalistas who used to cook and clean the floors for the Sandinistas and raise money for Castro's revolution and now see in Chávez the new champion of the poor.

I believe the second group is, by far, the largest. Many of the members of this group probably shouted with joy at the destruction of the Twin Towers, feel that Sadam Hussein is a patriot and consider the Colombian narcoterrorists as freedom fighters. They are soldiers of an ideological army already engaged in World War Three and would do whatever it takes to see the U.S. flounder. The members of the first group are few, since only those in the inner, dominant circles of pro-Chávez organizations get paid. The members of the third group are pretty pathetic and, like the Borbon dynasty of Spain, they never seem to learn or forget. When younger, they went to Nicaragua to pick coffee for the Sandinistas while the Ortega brothers were stealing millions of dollars in the name of their corrupt revolution. In middle age they protested against the Cuban embargo but never said a word about the hundreds of Cuban dissidents killed by Castro, about the thousands of political prisoners tortured by the Cuban butcher or about the dictatorial control that Castro has exerted on Cuba for decades. Now they have adopted as idol an uncultured paratrooper dedicated to the task of ruining his country. The younger members of this group go to the Youth or Socialist festivals in Caracas and are put to sleep in tents, in public parks, and to dispose of their bodily excreta in the open but somehow go back home thinking this is what the ideal society should look like. These sad people have developed a moral double-standard totally impervious to reasoning. They will not accept criticism against their prejudices and feel the need to attend this type of meeting in order to find brothers and sisters who share their basic fears of facing real life and real responsibilities. The members of this group, sadly, constitute the cannon fodder of the "revolution."

The document inviting people to attend

The document the organizers have written in order to call participants to this event is worthy of the Chávez regime. It uses lies with gusto, probably because the writers know that the bulk of the readers will accept them as the gospel, since they desperately want to believe. I would like to make the following comments in relation to this document:

  • In the seven years under Chávez, in spite of a gigantic oil income variously estimated in some US$130 billion, $160 or $200 billion (nobody really knows how much), poverty in Venezuela has increased by 10%, according official figures disclosed last year by Elias Eljuri, the president of the Venezuelan Institute of Statistics. When Chávez heard him say that, he ordered an immediate revision that led the poor bureaucrat to say that he was in error and that poverty had been reduced by 10%.
  • The document denounces a military invasion of Venezuela organized by the Pentagon (also denounced several months ago by Hugo Chávez on Ted Koppel's Nightline). In fact, this turned out to be the so-called "Plan Balboa," a naval exercise by the Spanish armed forces, all details easily to be found in Internet, if the Chávez regime had bothered to look for it, not an invasion at all.
  • U.S. attempts at assassinating Chávez are a frequent claim made by Chávez. He has denounced at least eight attempts at his life since he became president. In those eight times not one single piece of evidence has been produced, not one person has been arrested.
  • The document states: "the oil profits are being diverted from the pockets of a few to benefit the poor." Anyone who has visited Venezuela recently will know that the country is in ruins: infrastructure is rotting away, garbage remains uncollected in the streets, crime is rampant, some 13,000 Venezuelans are being killed every year (more people killed in Venezuela than in Iraq). Not only the oil income has been pilfered and stolen but also the national debt has doubled during Chávez's tenure and unemployment is the highest or second highest in Latin America. Venezuela is closer to Haiti than to Costa Rica, thanks to Chávez. This is all documented.
  • According to the document 20,000 Cuban medical doctors have raised access to healthcare in poor Venezuelan neighborhoods and villages. This is an important subject, as many poor Venezuelans are, in fact, now receiving primary medical attention in neighborhoods where no such services were previously available. This is happening, however, while integral health attention in hospitals has largely collapsed. Patients going into those hospitals are dying for lack of attention, as the still recent tragedy of the Los Magallanes Hospital, in West Caracas, revealed. In this government run hospital, four patients died for lack of oxygen because the service had been discontinued for lack of payment. The aspirin-oriented attention being dispensed by the Cuban doctors, although valuable, should not have replaced an integral Health National Policy. One of the crimes being committed by Chávez is to replace well-planned and holistic health, food and education policies by an improvised strategy of handouts, through which the citizen receiving the handouts becomes more dependent than ever in the welfare state, more defenseless, less of a self-starter.
  • The document claims that Chávez has eliminated illiteracy. Anyone could check United Nations statistics for 1998, the year before Chávez came into power, which already indicated a very low 6% rate of illiteracy in Venezuela. Persistent literacy programs, especially those conducted by Fe Y Alegría, a Venezuelan NGO, accomplished this. What Chávez did was to eliminate the support to this NGO and bring Cubans into the country, not only to conduct literacy programs but also to indoctrinate politically those being taught to read and write.
  • The document says: "President Chávez and grassroots Venezuelans are tackling corruption and bureaucracy in government. . . ." This is, perhaps, the greatest lie of all. The levels of corruption during the Chávez regime are the highest in Venezuelan history. I have been studying corruption in Venezuela during the last 25 years and I have never seen a greater incidence and intensity of corruption as I see now, in the Chávez dominated political regime. Some US$250 billion derived from oil production, indebtness and taxes have been received by Chávez in seven years but no one knows where the bulk of that money is. A major scandal like the current sugar mill fraud involving the military in the State of Barinas, where Chávez's father is Governor, is only one of dozens of cases where money has disappeared into the wrong pockets. About US$16 billion have gone abroad without transparency or accountability, to buy political loyalties and allies. A recent series of four reports by financial crime consultant Kenneth Rijock denounce how Chávez is moving Venezuelan money abroad, through in betweens and the acquisition of a Bank in the Middle East. If this were true it would add to the already gigantic corruption present in the Chávez's regime.

The Chávez circus is coming to Washington. This could be a good opportunity to ask Chávez's fellow travelers some hard questions about the corruption of the regime, about the political alignment of Chávez with rogue states such as Cuba, Zimbabwe and Iran, about the manner in which the petroleum industry has been dismantled by the regime and about the disarray within the Venezuelan public administration, where about 100 Ministers have been named and dismissed by Chávez in only seven years, due to incompetence, corruption or both.



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