As a mediator, OAS Secreatry General Cesar Gaviria has to be diplomatic. Thus, it came as a surprise when he said tonight “In the country a certain impunity has been prospering and this does a lot of damage to demoractic institutions”. Then he said :’(Since April 11th.) No mechanism has been found to carry out a comple and exhaustive investigation, neither ahs happened in subsequent events where some other Venezuelans died”. Given that the Government is in charge of law and order, Mr. Gaviria confirmed what I have been saying all along, this Government only looks into what it wants and there are no civil or human rights for anyone, Pro- or against Chavez. If he is saying this openly in public, imagine what he is saying in private!
Archive for January 6th, 2003
The National Assembly was not able to elect its leadership for the year 2003 due to a lack of quorum. There are two theories floating around. One, not all members of Chavez’ MVR party agree with the new leaders “chosen” and thus refused to go. The second theory is that some Deputies who have voted for Chavez’ MVR in the past are ready to negotiate with the opposition and elect an alternate group to lead the Assembly. Interesting….
Ana Fabregas de Sucre has written this article to try to tell the world about what is going on in Venezuela. Ana is not an innocent bystander, her husband Miguel Eduardo was savagely beaten and shot at by the National Guard on Dec. 3d. The beating was caught on video by an amateur. You can see pictures of what they did to him here.
THE PERVERSE REVOLUTION
The deep and extremely critical political crisis that Venezuela is undergoing needs urgent attention and must be taken seriously by the international community. After 4 years of the most incompetent and ominous government in our history, Venezuela is immersed in the worst political, economic, social and institutional crisis ever. And time is running out: we’re at the brink of loosing our democracy to the hands of the autocratic Chavez. The international response has been discouraging so far.
The international media has the great responsibility to FULLY UNMASK to the world what Chavez’s “revolution” is REALLY about. The complexity and the many factors involved in this crisis along with the lack of understanding and narrow minded vision portrayed by many international correspondents have generated in most instances, superficial, inaccurate, uninformed and/or distorted depictions of present day Venezuela. With some exceptions, their accounts and irresponsible conclusions represent another stumbling block to the overwhelming peaceful struggle of the majority of Venezuelans to consolidate democracy.
Venezuela became front-page news only when PDVSA´s management and employees (around 35,000 out of 40,000) walked out and joined a nationwide strike in favor of democracy bringing the country’s oil production to a standstill. The serious disruption of Venezuela‘s oil supplies affects not only the country but the United States and its interests. However, what must be front-page news and what must be emphasized repeatedly is the fact that a democratically elected president systematically violates the Constitution and in his obsession to keep himself in power he is destroying the country; therefore he shall be removed from office. The majority of Venezuelans today (80% according to polls) are willing to pay the ultimate price in order to achieve this goal peacefully within a democratic framework.
Given the enormous amount of evidence available it is hard to understand why most of the international media give more coverage to the symptoms than to the problem itself. Moreover, it is appalling and disgusting how many international correspondents do not verify the veracity of the information presented to them by the government. It is clear for Venezuelans that Chavez, under the disguise of legality, is in the final stage of imposing a Marxist-Leninist regime and declaring himself dictator in the same fashion as Fidel Castro. Chavez´s “revolution” which is ideological and political and lacks real substance, has certainly done very little for the country but impoverishing its citizens, instigating hate and division and creating great inequality. Its main objective -as that of any totalitarian regime- has been the concentration of power at any cost by using the tactics of destruction, intimidation, threats, lies and violence. In this sense, it is the revolution of deceit, because Chavez and his circle have demonstrated to be impostors who use all kinds of artifices to mislead Venezuelans by the use of false information, by the practice of cheating, bribery and dishonesty. As a result this government is characterized: first, by its arbitrariness, for its open disrespect for the law and the undemocratic capricious conduct of its leaders. Second, by its mediocrity for the precarious intellectual level, ineptitude and negligence to generate constructive and concrete policies; and because it rewards not education and decency, competence and efficiency but meanness and vulgarity. As a well respected Venezuelan intellectual and humorist Pedro Leon Zapata put it recently: “in this government one is forbidden to be intelligent.”
Chavez represents a dangerous combination of fierce populist, demagogue, snake charmer, charismatic tele-evangelist preacher, megalomaniac, ultimate judge of good and evil and a farce. It is surprising how many educated people have been fooled by Chavez´s demagogic rhetoric. In this sense, the international media must pay special attention to his double discourse and multiple faces; what he preaches and what he does.
Chavez´s conscious use of language with the purpose of annihilation is part of his totalitarian project. His most dangerous weapon is his rhetoric of hate, of division, of social resentment, of no tolerance and of violence. In his strategy to eliminate the adversary, he dismisses and debases everyone who dissents from him and his followers as “oligarch,” “squalid,” “terrorist,” “fascist,” “conspirator,” “traitor” who must be eradicated from society to purify it. He’s been successful in manipulating and exploiting the sentiments and needs of the poor and modeling their perceptions to the extent of negating reality. All this has resulted in the unfortunate polarization of society.
On the other hand, Chavez’s verbal attacks, insults and menaces, disrespect and cynicism have made him enemies with many factors of society. Many of his former close allies are now his strongest opponents. Moreover, he even has made enemies with the intelligentsia, university students and artists who traditionally are against the status quo and generally share leftist tendencies. He has antagonized the Church (“a tumor which has to be eradicated”), the media (“garbage,” “conspirators”), the federation of chambers of commerce, the largest labor union, the oil industry and some sectors of the Armed Forces; he has tried to enlist the last two into his leftist program by firing respected oil executives indiscriminately and appointing his cronies.
As part of the government’s propaganda and lobbying Chavez has been careful to portray a very different image abroad. With the appointment of the moderate and elegant Roy Chaderton -a respected career diplomat- as his Foreign Minister the government has tried to put on a face of not having authoritarian tendencies. It is important to mention that the lobbying has apparently reached many international media organizations.
Chavez represented the hope for profound changes for those who voted for him in 1998. He symbolized the rise of a new beginning which would make a tabula rasa of the past. He campaigned on two premises: his government was to represent the interests of the poor and those alienated by previous governments, and he was to eradicate corruption. All the conditions were set up in place for Chavez: he enjoyed 80% of popularity at the beginning of his government together with high oil prices that generated huge earnings; his political party had won the majority of seats in the National Assembly, and with the approval of a new custom-made Constitution, that increased the president’s powers he appointed at his will his closest allies to the most important posts and without the approval of the National Assembly. Moreover, he virtually dissolved the two strongest Venezuelan political parties. Four years later, see for your self.
Chavez has failed in his promises and betrayed his voters. According to polls, his former popularity has vertiginously dropped to around 20 % today. The economy is in ruins; corruption is grotesque and rampant, and the worst ever (earnings of $120 billion have evaporated). Unemployment, poverty and misery have increased dramatically (according to the economist Francisco Vivancos, this government has become a “poverty manufacturer”). The government’s subsidies for highly successful Church-run social development programs were eliminated; and the new ones have been unsuccessful, like the “Plan Bolivar 2000” which has been disastrous. Public healthcare has virtually collapsed. Burglaries, assaults and street violence have increased alarmingly.
As pointed out before, the worst of all is that this government violates the Constitution on a constant basis and manipulates it according to its will. Chavez himself committed one of the most flagrant violations of the democratic principles: in his TV monologue Alo Presidente of 12/15/02 he brazenly instigated members of the Armed Forces to disobey judicial orders. When a President believes he can go beyond the law and the Constitution he becomes a Dictator.
In Venezuela today the judicial system is falling apart under Chavez’s grip and as a result the rule of law has deteriorated dramatically. This government has politicized all aspects of society to the point where the different branches of government lack independence and reliability and serve only the interests of Chavez´s revolution. We are living under a regime which can arbitrarily suspend the inalienable rights of every citizen.
Furthermore, Chavez has begun to militarize Caracas and other parts of the country. This is another evidence of the government’s interference with the Venezuelan democracy (the seizure of the Metropolitan Police is an example). Moreover, a sector of the Armed Forces has become Chavez’s praetorian army used for intimidation and repression. Many politicians, journalists and innocent civilians have suffered the excessive use of force in recent months. This regime is becoming one of terror in which the so-called “Bolivarian Circles” –commonly known as circles of violence (in reality government sponsored armed street gangs led by Chavez’s political cronies) serve as the defendants of the “revolution” along with loyal officers of the military and the political police. To illustrate the promotion of violence Chavez, in a public appearance on 10/4/01 said the following: “…this is a peaceful revolution but it is not disarmed…when I say arms I am not referring only to words but to fusils, tanks…”
This government has also been repeatedly accused of violating Human Rights. According to Liliana Ortega, head of Cofavic (an organization for the defense of human rights) and who in 1999 was recognized by TIME Magazine as one of Latin America’s leaders for the new millennium, more than 120 claims of “extremely serious” violations to human rights have been received by the institution this year alone. Cofavic has also accused the government for the “non-fulfillment of the cautionary measures and other decisions dictated by both the Inter-American Commission and Inter-American Court of Human Rights respectively.”
During this government many crimes have not been formally investigated and the material authors remain at large. More than eight months have passed since the massacre of April 11, 2002 in which dozens of innocent civilians in a peaceful march were killed and wounded by snipers and gunmen from what is strongly believed to be government-related circles of violence. The Venezuelan journalist who recorded the video showing the identified gunmen in action will receive the King of Spain prize of journalism. Chavez himself publicly defended these criminals on TV with great cynicism, a scene which was repeated this time with the man he called “a gentleman” who killed 3 and wounded near 30 peaceful demonstrators in the Plaza Altamira on Dec. 6, 2002. This criminal was caught in fragranti and confessed of his crime on TV.
I am a witness of the brutal repression against innocent civilians near one of PDVSA’s main buildings in Chuao, a suburb of Caracas in which my husband was a victim. On December 3, 2002 a group of national guardsmen savagely attacked a small group of people. I was able to run for my life but my husband was ambushed by four guardsmen and was brutally attacked once he had fallen on the floor. The guardsmen kicked him and shot him with pellets at a very short range that badly injured his face, chest, arms and hands; afterwards he was hit on his back. An amateur video recorded the complete aggression, which has been endlessly shown on TV and newspapers as evidence of this government’s repression. (Some photos are here)
The government’s recklessness have unified the majority of society (approximately 80% according to polls) against it, from the rich, to the middle-class, to the poor. Chavez is certainly not connected with the people anymore because he has demonstrated to be intransigent and a man without sensibility who is determined to impose his “revolution” against the will of the majority. Chavez repeatedly ridicules, humiliates and despises Venezuelans by ignoring the overwhelming opposition and their call for his resignation and elections. He cannot see that he is the obstacle for democracy, for progress, and for peace. He cannot understand that he and his “revolution” represent a terrible accident in contemporary Venezuelan political history.
Although the general strike is partial, what is not partial is the widespread social mobilization in every city. The general strike has evolved into an active, voluntary and spontaneous civic resistance of thousands of people on the streets that is increasing on a daily basis. On Dec.15, 2002 and according to newspapers, 1.5 million people in Caracas alone took to the streets in a monumental peaceful march that symbolized the overwhelming resistance that the government faces.
We are running out of gas in the country. This is a serious situation that will create a highly volatile climate but it’s the ultimate pressure for a government that is deaf and blind, to negotiate its exit. But in reality, Chavez’s obstinate, intolerant authoritarian behavior and little political create a barrier for responsible constructing debate to reach an agreement with all parties involved. Chavez himself said recently that “the revolution is inflexible” which corroborates the military-like scheme of force and resistance that the government is using to deal with this extremely serious crisis.
The O.A.S. Secretary General, Cesar Gaviria came to Venezuela to install a Table of Negotiation and Agreements between the government and the opposition in order to diffuse the present day crisis. It has been more than four weeks since these rounds of talks have begun with no apparent results. It seems evident that the government is cheating and sabotaging the talks because a Dictator does not negotiate. Meanwhile, the government is consciously and irresponsibly buying time, giving that their strategy is aimed for the opposition to chicken out. The government is playing an extremely dangerous game because they are bidding for violence and chaos.
Venezuelans want a democratic solution, not a coup d’état. Venezuelans want a country united and free. Venezuelans want peace. Venezuelans don’t want violence. Venezuelans want elections as soon as possible. To that effect on November 4, 2002 all the opposition groups introduced the required signatures needed to initiate a consultative referendum. This referendum has been set to take place on February 2, 2003 but as one can expect of this government they have and will try by all means to boycott this referendum from taking place.
Ana Teresa Fábregas de Sucre
Chavez spoke on TV for two hours tonight. He tried to project the image that the oil industry is not functioning beacuse of sabotage, rather than the reality taht there aren’t enough skilled workers to run it. He gave numbers that are very high compqred with what the striking oil workers are saying. So far, the predictions of the oil worrkers have been more real than those of the Government. It is clear that the new strategy is to blame everything on “sabotage”, he also threatened to bring to trial all those responsible of the sabotage for their crimes, however, I know for a fact that no plant was transferred to the new managers of PDVSA without a detailed description signed by both parts of the status of operation, shutdown, etc..Chavez threatened with the state of emergency but didn’t announce it.