VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: Generally, I would have little or absolutely NO sympathy whatsoever with sinecured foreign diplomats bleating that they have scarcely two pennies to rub together, and the travails that they are forced to endure in far-flung corners of the world, separated as they may be from family and friends in often hostile countries such as the United States et.al. where the Venezuelan government is scarcely considered to be anything even approaching 'most favored' status.
To the home-based pen-pushers in Caracas (and possibly replicated in other capitals around the world), of course, diplomatic staffers are envied with a degree of jealousy that is often unreasonable considering the fact that the selfsame pen-pushers back home are generally enjoying the assumption of prestige in public office that belies the general dogsbodies further down the food chain so seemingly serve their every bureaucratic whim thinking that they hold the keys ... to what?
Which is why there's a certain degree of schadenfreude in the news that President Hugo Chavez Frias has announced several budget cuts and insists that his administration must tighten its belt to restructure expenditures and get away from a culture of ever-increasing bureaucratic spending.
Methinks, perhaps, that -- as usual -- Chavez and his immediate administration are playing fire department officials away from the scene of the REAL fire ... while NOT exactly denying the incendiary tendencies that are just waiting to become firestorms of their very own in placed where they may least expect it.
It's all very well to cosy up with Moscow, Beijing, Tripoli and Teheran. It is perhaps okay to swear eternal fealty to recently emerging world powers rather than to surrender unilaterally to dictatorships a la Bush II. But what excuse can really be given for the lavish spending on home-based desk-pilots and party political spinmeisters other than to buy the schizophrenia of their socialist-capitalist souls to the devil of personal enrichment over what President Hugo Chavez Frias himself set as patriotic providence...
All the while, the Foreign Service continues to pay massive emoluments to politically-appointed, non-career, catastrophes of Ambassadors -- probably more politically comfortable to keep stashed away in places like Washington DC and London UK -- while screwing local staff and hapless junior-level embassy personnel, forcing them to eke out bare existences on pitiful wages/salaries while Russian, Chinese, Cuban and other diplomatic counterparts are often forced pick up the tab to save their impoverished plights as Venezuelan representatives in the world's capitals.
What earthy reason is there to pay mega-salaries to administration sycophants other than to feed their anti-socialist greed and to contain them in the inner circle until such times as they see that they can feather their own nests elsewhere and willingly jump ship ... usually into the open arms of those who will do optimum damage to what Venezuela is really all about.
Laudable as it most definitely is, the President's come-lately austerity plan is at best half-baked and, anyway, has been 'talked about' in fits and starts over the last ten years with the same old, same old just scratching a groove in the vinyl like yet another broken record. "First reduce costs, do away with wasteful spending, end corruption, unnecessary expenses and put an end to mega-salaries,'' Chavez told Venezuela TV viewers earlier this week with all the innocence of a virginal ingenue who had never thought such things were possible in HIS administration. He has, however, been forthright in his condemnations of previous (now opposition) administrations who were spending money like there was no tomorrow while mortgaging the nation internationally for debt repayments many years into the future ... which just happened to coincide with Chavez' coming to power and the end of their own quasi-democracies of corruption and malfeasances.
But with 2008 budgeting already very much in front of his presidential radar, Chavez does admit that the level of extraordinary expenses discovered in his administration are in sharp contrast with the vastly lower wages earned by the majority of Venezuelans ... they estimate that some 30 governmental organizations (22 ministries and Chavez' own palatial accommodations) have run up more than $46 million in food and beverage expenses. Peanuts, of course, in comparison with expenses for the upkeep of the current rsident of the White House, but nonetheless ridiculous when you see cited $160,000 for Chavez' own wardrobe of business suits and (shades of Ismelda Marcos) more than $70,000 for shoes...
Former Communist guerrilla, Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque
Former communist guerrilla, Minister of Finance, Ali Rodriguez Araque (just lately returned from an ambassadorial health sabbatical in Cuba) hays that Venezuela's 2009 budget will "drastically reduce outlay on the purchase of certain types of vehicles, cell phones and expenses for unspecified 'celebrations' -- a.k.a. whisky-swilling government receptions and lavishly catered 'at the drop of a hat' banquets -- and will include a campaign exhorting the public towards savings and austerity...
"A campaign exhorting the public towards savings and austerity" ... come on, Minister Rodriguez, get real!
The hard-working poles under your fiscal command are already well-used to austerity -- they live with it every living day of their sorry existences! And as for savings ... if they even had decent wages to cover the basic outlays on accommodation, food etc., they might, just possibly, be able to scrape a measly few pennies together to actually SAVE some!
But, mirror, mirror on the wall ... are we going to see just more
Is there any REAL intend in the words?
Is Rodriguez prepared to take a cut in his own mega-salary?
Where does austerity begin?
Can he really believe the Venezuelan nation will stomach more of the same when they see super-luxury air-conditioned limos and attendant hordes of armed-to-the-teeth bodyguards (with their own 4x4 juggernaut SUVs) at the beck and call of Rodriguez and a myriad of other ministerial non-descripts, never mind the Armani suits and cupboard-loads of footwear the President has compared to what's in their hillside shacks....
And they call this a "socialist" revolution ... HUMBUG, I say ... sheer HUMBUG!
Roy S. Carson
Venezuela is facing the most difficult period of its history with honest reporters crippled by sectarianism on top of rampant corruption within the administration and beyond, aided and abetted by criminal forces in the US and Spanish governments which cannot accept the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to decide over their own future.
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