Three Articles About Venezuela Today

March 22nd, 2013

By Dan Miller

One suggests some basis for hope, another writes about oppression by Chavistas and the third pursues the same theme.

El Presidente for Life, THugo Chávez, died on or before March 5, 2013. He may have died in Cuba, in Venezuela or perhaps elsewhere. There has been much speculation but nobody who knows for sure seems to be talking. In any event he is almost certainly dead now, a good thing — or at least I hope it is good — for Venezuela.


Before proceeding further, here are some points that should be kept in mind about Venezuela:

1. Venezuela has a constitution, amended to permit a President to remain in power for essentially as long as he can get reelected.

2.The constitution is interpreted (or ignored) by a Chavista court and implemented (or ignored) by a Chavista administration and legislature.

Election of a new President is scheduled for April 14th. The contestants are the Chavista candidate, Nicholas Maduro — the successor allegedly selected by Chávez if Chávez was still alive when he is alleged to have selected him — and Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate.

According to an article at Venezuela News and Views, appropriately titled Transfiguration in Naguanagua, Capriles is doing far better than during the previous presidential election campaign.

I am watching for the first time a full speech of Capriles campaign-bis, tonight in Naguanagua. Well, it is a transformed man. No more mister nice guy against Chavez. Now it is a truth a minute. He holds no punch against Maduro. From accusing him of being a machista to telling folks he is lazy and does not wake up before 9 AM. In a way he manages to come closer to be a Chavez heir than Maduro himself. At least Capriles can claim to have been everywhere in the country, like Chavez did, and waking up early, like Chavez did (even though it was more likely due to insomnia than actual desire…).

But Capriles goes much further. After all, Maduro has proven to be such an easy target. I am impressed how he mixes criticism of the regime with concrete proposals, though of a demagogic on occasion. But the thing is that Capriles speaks from the heart. His fight is for Venezuela, to save our country, to make it reborn. He offers himself in sacrifice. It is simply fantastic to see a transformation. Too bad he did not try some of that fire last year against Chavez. …

Capriles meeting was huge, HUGE, for something so early in the campaign for a side so deprived of means. Never mind the enthusiasm, that you cannot fake.  Globovision switched directly to Maduro in El Tigre, with a dull campaign  a lack of enthusiasm, and of course, close captions so we cannot say how big truly the crowds are. The argument? Chavez and the opposition will privatize PDVSA….

At least two significant problems are apparent: the first has to do with media coverage of Capriles vs. that of Maduro and the second with whether Capriles is just another politician uttering meaningless platitudes and slogans bearing little relationship to his intentions if elected. As with politicos everywhere, the second cannot yet be answered and probably will not be unless Capriles is (a) elected and (b) manages to become the President. The answer to part (b) may well be different than that to part (a).

As to media coverage, Daniel’s article at Venezuela News and Views alludes briefly to one of Capriles’ problems: “Globovision switched directly to Maduro in El Tigre.” Globovision had been the principal, and eventually became the only, widely viewed media outlet for news not controlled by Chavistas. It has had substantial difficulties with governmental authorities for years and now seems to have become little better than another Chavista outlet. The article linked immediately above, dated February 14, 2010, states that

the political times have changed.  If the hard line approach of Globovision paid off earlier in keeping the flame of liberty alive in Venezuela, today it is not working as well in front of a government growing desperate because of a situation it cannot control.  For those of you a little bit dense or anti Chavez beyond reason: a softer Globovision is better than no Globovision. And Globovision without the financial banking of things like Banco Federal has little chance to make it alone.

That process seems to have continued, in a similar downward spiral.

An article at The Devil’s Excrement, titled Fascism Shows Its Ugly Face Against Marching Students In Venezuela, reports

Yesterday, students went to the Electoral Board to present their demands for more transparency on the day of the Presidential elections on April 14th. They were met with violent Chavista groups aided by none other than the Venezuelan National Guard. The march had to be cancelled as it was not only met by the violent groups, but there were more surrounding the building of the Electoral Board. …

To add to the fascism, students coming to Caracas to the march were stopped before arriving in the city and their buses were not allowed to go through.

But the fascist statement of the day came from Chavez’ son in law and now Vice President Jorge Arreaza who actually justified the violence by saying “The tone in which the march was convoked, was not the most correct one”.

Fascist is, fascist does… (Emphasis added.)

Although I have not visited Venezuela for a very long time, I have tried to keep up with the place as best I can from Panamá. Chávez seems to have captured the souls of what are often referred to in the United States as “low information” and “entitlement” voters. They hear what the Chavistas want them to believe and little more. The campaign season provides many treats for those likely to vote the Chavista ticket; many may well have become miserable, but they believe nonetheless.

Another article titled “Stand up for Your Right” at VenEconomy is reprinted at the Latin American Herald Tribune. It observes,

The fatal fate of president-elect (but not sworn-in) Hugo Chávez has put all Venezuelans through a new electoral process again, and in less than six months, where a State confiscated by the chavista regime is at the service of a Cuban military-communist project.

The precedents set at every election speak for themselves about the supremacy that this theft of power leaves over the adversary. An opponent that is systematically cowed by abusive campaigns, endless TV and radio broadcasts from the Government, misuse of State resources, uncertain electoral guarantees and a highly consistent pump of fear into the electorate on the part of the National Executive through their various coercive mechanisms.

Among others, and maybe the wickedest of them all mechanisms, has been that of (and still is) the massive inoculation of perception in the citizen that the vote is not secret, thus violating the Constitution and laws that explicitly dictate that voting is a right “to be carried out through free, universal, direct and secret voting.”

The article describes how the vote has ceased to be secret. Among the actions the Chavistas are thereby enabled to take are (a) getting Chavistas who might not otherwise vote to do so and (b) penalizing those who vote for the opposition.

What’s more, the fingerprint machine has been devised to trick citizens by making them believe how the voters did at the ballots. This is something no one has made sure of in the multiple elections held to date.

This poses a challenge to Comando Simón Bolívar, led by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, in explaining to the electorate that the vote is really secret and that the illegal fingerprint machines are something not to be afraid of.

As I have commented here many times in the past (most recently here) Venezuela is a truly beautiful country with many pleasant people. Here is a video taken from a cable car going from the City of Merida up further into the mountains. We tried several times to use it but each time we went to Merida it was broken. Preventative maintenance has not been a major Venezuelan activity.

Since the cable car was broken, we usually took taxis, as described in this attempt at humor I wrote for Caribbean Compass, a magazine intended for others living and traveling on sailboats. Here is a video of someone else’s trip. It looks a lot like one we took to Las Nevados.

In addition to her great beauty, Venezuela has abundant natural resources. When my wife and I were there at the tail end of the last century, Venezuela grew the food her people needed and did not have to rely on imports for food. Today she has to, and due to  corruption, domestic inflation and hard currency devaluation, store shelves are often bare. Someday perhaps, Venezuela may again become a nation of tranquility, happiness, peace and plenty. I hope.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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