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The new Bolivarian oligarchy in Venezuela

by Miguel Octavio

Caracas 10.11.07 |While Hugo Chavez has used the terms oligarchs and oligarchy to refer to his enemies and the opposition in a derogatory manner, after eight years the term has certainly worn off, more so when one realizes that the "old" oligarchy has been quickly replaced by the "boli-bourgeois" the name given to the new class of rich Bolivarians who defend the revolution and are part of the revolution only because they are getting rich beyond the wildest dreams of the "old" oligarchy, some of which actually even had to work for it.

In fact, the term oligarchy should have been strictly speaking given up by Chavez long ago, since never had Venezuela been governed by such a small number of people and power concentrated on one mad, the autocrat himself, the biggest oligarch this country has seen since Dictator Juan Vicente Gomez who ruled the country singled handedly for some twenty seven years. But such is the loss of touch with reality of current President Hugo Chavez that he does not even realize how a few members of his inner circle have quickly become the powerful, the rich, and the decision makers in a country of 26 million people. Add to it the wealth and what you have is a new oligarchy that no matter what happens on Dec. 3d. has amassed so much money and power that they will influence the country's life for decades to come, much like those that surrounded Gomez and his relatives did after his death.

The new oligarchy flaunts their wealth in ways never seen in Venezuela. Case in point is the fact that in 2005 the Government banned all private airplanes from landing in the La Carlota military airport of Caracas, saying that for the benefit and safety of the people only helicopters could land there. And for a while it worked. In fact, a while back I made a post of actually seeing and talking a picture of a jet plane land in La Carlota, because it not only violated the law, but showed that some people are more equal than others under the law.

This is no longer a rarity. Where I live is actually in the landing path of La Carlota and at least a dozen planes take off and land daily, with increasing traffic on Friday and Sunday afternoons, as the new boli-oligarchs take off for the weekend to the fancy resorts of the Caribbean where they can enjoy their anonymity their new found wealth, without annoying fellow Venezuelans recognizing them or God forbid, staging a protest against them. To hell with equality under the law or even the law itself which simply bans the any airplane from landing there, but the law can be skirted as the revolution is in a rush to have its leaders enjoy themselves or make efficient use of their new flying toys, which range from Cessnas to long range jets. Yes, Venezuela has become the largest growing market for private jets in South America and the planes are being bought by those affiliated with the revolution.

As I arrived last week at Maiquetia airport I could not help but see the number of people meeting the plane with signs with a name of it. We are not talking about visitors being met as they come out of customs, but people being met right at the exit of the jet way, before immigration and customs by civilians, military and pretty ladies in uniform, all there to make sure these visitors sail through immigration and customs to make their visit to the "revolution" better. Thus, as I sat there waiting in line to have my passport stamped, dozens of people just went by immigration without any checks, led by the usual Government official, who would just drop the passports in a "special" line for the new oligarchs and their visitors.

Mind you, this not a new practice, it has always existed and I have always found it distasteful and inconsiderate and I distinctly remember the current head of the airport announcing the practice would be banned during his tenure. Well, it hasn't and in fact seems to have been magnified. There is also room for the little people to make a buck too, as a guy came up to me and "offered" to help me get through customs if I gave him a tip. I got through all right with my stash of wine and cheese without his help, which is what happens 98% of the time as bored customs agents simply wave most people through anyway.

Then there is Scotch consumption, up from US$ 40 million to US$ 100 million from 2005 to 2006. It is, of course, presumptuous of me to assume that it is the new oligarchy that drinks 18 year old Scotch. But who else could it be? The old one was perfectly happy with your run of the mill Johnny Walker Black Label, why would they change all of a sudden? But go into any Caracas Restaurant and you always find the “special offer” of the previously rare blue label. But its’ OK, it is not that expensive as it is paid and subsidized by official CADIVI dollars given out by the foreign exchange control office, which certainly understands the need for revolutionaries to And that in the end is one of the biggest dilemma’s of the faux revolution. As the Peruvian Foreign Minister said today of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, it all has the arrogant and overbearing stink of the nouveau rich. And it does and it is everywhere, the rich revolutionaries do not want to give up neither their wealth nor their priviliges. They wear red shirts at rallies, but Cartier watches and Lanvin suits and ties in private, they do not fly commercial, have purchased the finest properties in the East of Caracas and their kids go to the best schools. How do you carry out a revolution like that.

The answer is you don’t. These guys are the revolution’s worst enemies. They no longer want change, they want to preserve their new status quo, they have become the new and rich oligarchy.

That is why we need to get rid of them on Dec. 3d. Unfortunately many of them agree with us too, as they see a triumph by the opposition as the only guarantee that they will continue to enjoy their ill gotten wealth. They fear there may be a revolution after all if Chavez wins and they will have to make some sacrifices for it.

They are the new Bolivarian oligarchs!

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