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The Maryknoll “Useful Idiots” are Alive and Well

By Homer Harkins

01.05.06 | The term “useful idiot” is purported to have been coined by Vladimir Lenin to describe those westerners who would endorse the Soviet Union and its policies in the West while Vladimir oversaw the massacre of millions of Russian farmers and hundreds of thousands of perceived political opponents. During the 1980’s, many useful idiots traveled to Nicaragua, endorsing that country’s aborted experiment in violent socialist revolution. Thought to be lost in oblivion since the end of the Cold War and the demise of communism, these “Sandalistas” as they were also called are now packing up their sandals and making their way to Venezuela where they are finding new life as useful idiots endorsing Latin America’s latest experiment in populist lunacy called Bolivarianismo, a bizarre combination of Marxism, nationalism and Venezuelan jingoism. Read “Sandalistas flock for first-hand view of the Chavez revolution” written by Sophie Arie to better understand this phenomenon. Among this useful idiots is Joseph Fedora, who recently wrote the article “Which way Venezuela: good or bad?” published in the May/June 2006 issue of Maryknoll magazine.

If Mr. Fedora intended to provide a balanced look at Bolivarianismo and its quixotic “jefe” Hugo Chavez (a.k.a. El Commandante or Fidelito), he failed. His article, while loaded with anecdotal opinion, is void of analysis. The only facts or figures provided are unsubstantiated claims related to improved medical access, the formation of cooperative that supposedly have provided 210,000 jobs, government efforts to provide food at reduced prices and a much vaunted reading program which evidently has turned 1.4 million Venezuelans from illiterates into high school graduates in a matter of weeks.

No sources are provided to back up these claims and even a superficial analysis of them demonstrates their superficiality. For example, Mr. Fedora claims that seventy percent of Venezuelans now have access to free medical care. I lived in Venezuela for five years and am married to a Venezuelan. I know that one hundred percent of Venezuelans have had access to free medical care since at least the 1970’s. It may have been poorly funded and administered but is the voodoo medicine currently being provided to the poor by 15,000 Cuban medical specialists really any better? There have been numerous articles in the Venezuelan press recently showing the abysmal condition of public hospitals throughout Venezuela almost eight years into Fidelito’s “Process.” But I suspect Mr. Fedora wasn’t interested into looking too deeply into the state of public medicine in Venezuela as it might too quickly discredited Fidelito.

But the most disturbing aspect of Fedora’s article was not what it said but what it didn’t. For example, the murder rate in Venezuela has tripled under Fidelito’s incompetent rule. And the vast majority of the victims are the poor barrio residents that a good social activist should be concerned about. This one omission turns just about the only specific criticism of Fidelito in the article into a five-hundred pound gorilla no balanced observer could overlook. This mild criticism is offered by a life-long foreign resident in Venezuela who says she is “disturbed” by Fidelito’s plans to hand out thousands of military assault rifles to barrio residents so they can fight a U.S. invasion. If this happens, Venezuela’s notoriously deadly dangerous barrios could spiral down into an inferno of gang violence that would make Baghdad look like a nice place to raise a family.

And how about public housing? How can it be that after six years of incredibly high oil revenues Fidelito has built fewer houses for the poor than the previous practically bankrupt administration provided in just one year? How can these obvious failures be ignored while the regime’s highly questionable band aid fixes to social misery be included?

Admittedly, the Church’s anti-Chavez position comes out load and clear in the article. In it, several high-ranking clerics are highly critical of Bolivarinismo. If only Mr. Fedora had looked a little deeper into why these men of honor are so concerned about Fidelito’s true intentions and their impact on the people of Venezuela, he might have been able to provide an honest critic of what is happening in Venezuela today. But then if he did, I doubt the useful idiots would believe it or Maryknoll magazine would have published it.

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