A detached and arrogant Hugo Chavez blasts his own best supporters

July 27, 2008

One of the failures of the Chavista revolution is to attempt
to create a system, which so little resembles what the average Venezuelan wants
out of life or believes in. In fact, Chavez has taken advantage of that buying
his popularity using the billions of Bolivars he has had at his disposal. Some
Misiones were simply that, pay people to do nothing instead of work, but have
them attend his rallies at will. No money, no attendance, as the average
Venezuelan has such a hard time making ends meet, that there is little time to
volunteer for party duty.

Thus, today the autocrat looked out of touch and detached when he
snapped
at the very workers that help produce and broadcast his Sunday variety
show Alo Presidente.

He first told an engineer working to produce the program that he could
volunteer for the show, rather than charge for it. Later, he complained
about the union contract of the cameramen of VTV, that paid them the equivalent
of eight hours for each hour worked, which he called degenerate, perverse and
vagrants.

Chavez went as far as suggesting that he may do something about it if VTV
workers dont want to renegotiate the contract, reminding the workers of what
he did with PDVSA.

I find the whole display absurd given the reality of Venezuela and the fact
that those that surround Chavez make orders of magnitude more than these people
and that the difference between the salary of a Minister or Supreme Court
Justice has increased dramatically since Chavez took over.

But either Chavez is out of touch and disengaged, or the PDVSA example is
simply extremely inappropriateand obscene.. PDVSA workers make today, on
average, more than they did in November 2002, before the oil strike, and the
number of workers has increased by almost three quarters, going from 44,000 to
70,000, so PDVSA is not precisely an example of sacrifice for the revolution,
as they also enjoy what is certainly the best benefits in Venezuelas labor
markets.

But beyond that Chavez seems to be living a reality that is much different
than what most Venezuelans have to deal with daily. Most union contracts have
been delayed in their renegotiations and certain regions, like Guayana, where
Chavismo claims to be leading in, depend strongly on such contracts. In fact,
Chavez took over Sidor when the union could not agree on terms with management
that would have made steel workers make every month, as much as full professors
at Venezuelan university. Is he willing to give them that now?

In fact, I find it hard to believe that calling workingmen perverse and
suggesting they should charge less will sell well in whatever the local version
of Peoria is. It is Chavez himself that travels around the Globe giving gifts
and telling us how rich we are. How can he really not expect the average
Venezuelan to participate in the wealth that they have yet to see?

Because these cameramen and engineers are not that well to do. They probably
dont own their own home, use public transportation and are struggling to make
ends meet in the face of 30-40% inflation for their cost of living. They
probably have more than one job and the idea of volunteering has not even
crossed their mind as they are trying to figure out how to make extra money for
whatever they lack.

And todays complaints by the autocrat indicate a degree of isolation much
larger than I could have imagined. At a time when corruption cases in the multi
million dollar range are the norm, when scandals show how Chavista Governors
and Managers buy and use airplanes to travel regularly in luxury, asking the
less well to do would seem to be the worst possible thing to do in an electoral
year.

Because in the end people are getting tired of promises and revolutions and
sacrifices, as things start getting worse, not better and they hear daily that
the price of oil has been soaring. It has been ten years now, the IVth.
Republic is long forgotten and the US seems like a virtual threat to Venezuela.
Crime, inflation and unemployment seem to be the real enemies of the people at
this time.

And
even Chavez threats
and ultimatum to his former allies PPT, PCV and MEP
seem somewhat detached. His attempt at a single unified party, simply did not
work. He has to deal with them now, if he truly wants unity. And threatening to
set them aside will in the end only favor the opposition, as any party that
feels left out, will likely look for help in the other side. Because they all
know that institutionality is very weak on both sides. PSUV was born with lots
of members, some forced to register and others induced to register because
there was something at the end of the socialist rainbow. But the rainbow seems
getting dimmer and the promises fuzzier.

And even the issues seem irrelevant. Does Chavez really think that the use
of the Telesur logo constitutes a crime? Does he think that people will find
something in it, when the operation Jaque Mate yielded the promise of Ingrid
Betancourts release that he could never deliver on?

Chavez has become detached an isolated and it is only his control over the
system that allows him to do what he does. People dont care about his visit
with the King or whether Russia is on our side or not, or selling us weapons or
not. People care about their day to day, which Chavez seems to be ignoring more
and more.

To most Venezuelans geopolitics are as important or relevant as the latest
Paris fashion show, something remote and mysterious, which they may or not read
about in the newspapers. But irrelevant either way.

The great communicator of the revolution can no longer walk in the streets
with his people and seems further and further away from them. He does not
understand (or know?) the impact of 48% food inflation in the last twelve
months. Or the fear of being robbed everyday after two hours getting back and
forth from work. Or why it takes so long to get back and forth. And if he does
not understand the significance of these anytime soon, it will be him that will
be asking these parties to come back and join him. Without them, it is PSUV
that may not survive.

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