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Hugo Chavez and the blame game

By Aleksander Boyd

Caracas 25.09.06 | Poverty in Venezuela is on the increase but Hugo is not to be blamed. Crime in Venezuela has reached levels that make casualties of modern day wars numbers pale but Hugo is not to be blamed. More than half of Venezuelans in working age earn their living in the so called "informal economy" but Hugo is not to be blamed. Experts that spend their lives trying to interpret poor people's feelings towards Hugo say that, while there's sheer discontentment within that social strata vis-a-vis the Chavez administration, Hugo, personally, continues to enjoy a level of support that is obviously unrelated to his performance. As I wrote in The Times "...the mounting failures of his Government are not perceived by most Venezuelans to be of his making. They are seen as the fault of his ministers, whom he often berates in his many television appearances for the entertainment of his grassroot supporters. His virtually non-stop presence on TV helps to explain why he still commands a level of support that certainly does not correspond with the mediocre performance of his administration."

Pundits have it that Hugo has successfully established a separation between his political persona and the performance of his administration, thus he escapes the blame game, which falls squarely on his cabinet members who, by the way, can't lift a finger without his approval. Many disenfranchised share the perception that Hugo has been fooled by his ministers; that although he tackles problems and tries his hardest to find solutions his entourage isn't helpful. Telling ministers off often on live TV is the secret of Hugo's success and a brilliant PR strategy. He comes on TV and insults his aides but in fact he never fires them. However poor folks feel that their president is courageous and honourable for the problems lay with his cabinet.

The same poor folks, when asked to voice criticism towards the Chavez regime, strongly condemn the giving away Venezuelan resources to other countries. As many have said to me lately "how come this man gives away our resources while there's so much poverty in this country?"

The chaps at the Centre for Economic Investigations (CIECA) have published a report on 12 September this year detailing the announced foreign expenditure for the years 2005-2006. The total sum of this is more than $50 billion. The report covers a wide array of 'agreements' which Hugo Chavez, as the head of the Executive, has entered into. Now given that the squandering of resources is one of the issues that bothers tremendously chavistas and non-chavistas alike, coupled with the fact that the decisions of doing so were taken personally and without consultation by Chavez, how come it is a problem to place the blame where it belongs? Can Hugo transfer blame to his ministers? No. Can he accuse Congress of pilfering in irresponsible fashion the wealth of Venezuelans in political adventures of global scope? No. Can he throw that hot potato to an opposition that has not been in government for nearly 8 years? No. Hugo could certainly turn round and say that the military expenditure was made with the purpose of fortifying Venezuela so that the country has the means to defend itself from the coming sulfuric attack of the Devil. But how about the billions wasted on unprofitable deals with the likes of Cuba, Argentina, Bolivia, Jamaica, Mali, Nicaragua, etc.?

These facts ought to be brought to the discussion so that voters can make informed decisions cum election day. No one but Chavez is to be blamed for misuse of resources that belong to all Venezuelans. One of Hugo's propaganda mottos is "con Chavez gobernamos todos" however I am yet to meet the first Venezuelan who agrees with blowing the country's wealth while our people are surrounded by misery.

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