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Freedom songs from Venezuela
Al loco, al loco, al loco le queda poco!!

By Aleksander Boyd

A rather unorthodox title I know, however after assisting to a conference in Rome yesterday and witnessing how honourable members of the Italian parliament referred to the crisis in Venezuela and its master, one must rejoice and start singing the aforementioned song.

The introductory words were those of Simone Gargano, Regional Secretary of UDEUR (Unione Democratici per L'Europa or Democratic Union for Europe). Mr Gargano expressed his utmost concern about the grave situation at present arguing "president Chavez is trying to force upon the country a hegemonic system, which has created more poverty, unemployment and has battered the collective conscience of the people". He followed then saying "under the present circumstances there, it is highly uncertain that the revoking referendum will indeed take place, for Chavez has yet to guarantee its willingness and full commitment to celebrate said process. We have no doubt that Chavez will try to manipulate the results, it is therefore of extreme importance that we engage with all the tools that our democratic system provides to guarantee the transparency of the referendum".

MP Carla Mazzuca gave an account about the violations to human rights, based on reports produced by Amnesty International. She cited "inefficiency of the judicial institutions, the total impunity of public employees, disrespect of indigenous rights, refusal of accepting Colombian refugees, more than 1400 detainees who have been killed (extra-judicial killings) and involvement of the armed forces in governing the country". She concluded saying that no one really knows who is Chavez and what does he want.

A very interesting reference was made with respect to the Forum of Porto Alegre in which two tendencies were perceived. Special attention was focused on the "reformists" headed by Castro, Chavez and Italian communist Fausto Bertinotti. These gentlemen opposed staunchly the Free Trade Economic Area proposed by the US denying the benefits that such an agreement could bring to the continent. Instead they advocate for Mercosur (which continues to be a concept yet to be crystallised) as the "solution for hemispheric integration to counterbalance the ominous power of the American administration". Italian Senators and MPs have a different perspective though, referring to the collision of the two agreements as one of the reasons for economic stagnation of the region due to the lack of will of some presidents to bring about much needed economic reform.

The interventions of Pierferdinando Cassini and Clemente Mastella -president and vice-president of Congress- were just outstanding. Both elaborated on the impending necessity of celebrating the referendum and the presence of international observers to supervise the process. Italy will hold the rotating presidency of the European Union commencing in July for a period of six months, during which they will embark on a remarkable foreign policy strategy geared towards Latin America, "we shall protect and defend democracy and we will monitor the Venezuelan political conflict very closely for the moral debt that Italy has with the continent and with Venezuela is too large to continue to be ignored" Mr Mastella's dictum. Referring to the million Italians who live in Venezuela, he stated that they could count upon Italy's total support for the celebration and normal completion of the forthcoming referendum.

Mention of some social and economic facts produced distress and astonishment among the participants. In 1999 unemployment was 11.5% today is 23.5%. The government of Chavez has produced the closure of more than 6000 enterprises and 1.5 million people have lost their work. In 1999, about 4500 people were killed in crime related issues, the statistics of today show 11000 people being killed on a year-to-year basis. The fragile balance that existed before Chavez' arrival to the presidency was terminated with the approval of the new constitution. Worth mentioning is that the draft of the constitution that was approved by the people is not today's constitution. In effect, the text of the constitution that was proposed for the people to decide about via the referendum of 1999 was modified three times, without popular approval, before its implementation.

In my opinion, the climax of the conference was the intervention of Donato Di Santo (head of Latin American department of Foreign ministry). Mr Di Santo is a reputed and well-known socialist who defends the stance of the leftists. Unbelievably enough, Mr Di Santo said that Chavez has nothing to do with the left or socialism, but rather a demagogue populist who has used the leftist discourse to capitalize on the anti establishment sentiment of Venezuelans. Effective indeed, Chavez' discourse has been also embraced by the left in Europe, the anti globalisation movements and all the green "experts" who still believe in his words. In a recent trip to Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela Mr Di Santo could confirm that the Venezuelan case is reaching epic conditions in terms of social distress and lack of coherent policies to benefit the poor. Hearing those words from a lefty was magical for one simple reason, i.e. the Venezuelan Messiah is losing face with the left. A good Italian adage for it would be "tra il dire e il fare ce di mezzo il mare" meaning there's an oceanic difference between said and done.

I would like to conclude by summarizing some events which can be perceived as advancement in the undermining of the "democratic façade" of Hugo Chavez, which have come to fruition owing to the increasingly stupid behaviour of the government and the increasing ability of democratic and freedom loving Venezuelans to unmask president Chavez in the international arena;

- The "race card" played by Foreign Secretary Roy Chaderton in Chile, produced a counter effect on the international delegates present in the conference.

- The handing of letters asking for help in the resolution of our crisis for the second time around to the "Group of Friends" representatives who ignored the "affected attitude" of Mr Chaderton.

- Chavez lost the majority in the National Assembly, and his support levels are shrinking by the day.

- The Inter American commission statement, placing Venezuela together with Cuba, Colombia and Haiti as the American countries with the most appalling records of human rights violations.

- The ILO statement, condemning the Venezuelan administration vis-à-vis unions, workers rights and unlawful dismissals.

- Meetings with:
a) representatives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Amnesty International in London,
b) European Commission delegates in Brussels,
c) In Paris, human rights defenders and radio commentators interviewed Mr Mohamad Merhi (father of one of the victims of the massacre of last April).

- Conferences in Tilburg, Vienna and Rome exposing the grave violations to human rights occurring in Venezuela.

There shall be no doubt that freedom and democracy will effectively bury the absurd "revolution" that Chavez and his mentor want to force on Venezuela. Leaving sentiments aside, one must recognize that there are too many vested interests sustaining Chavez' grip to power, however the number and tenacity of those who oppose him is in crescendo.

Therefore we should start singing again "Hugo, Huguito, aprieta ese c…"

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