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Venezuela's President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias is NOT stupid when it comes to military matters ... AND politics!

By       Message Roy S. Carson       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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VHeadline editor & publisher Roy S. Carson writes: As an observer of the Venezuelan political and economic scene, it would be too easy for me to fall into the traps laid by both extremities of the domestic and foreign political kaleidoscope to isolate oneself exclusively to their way of thinking ... or non-thinking, as the case may fall!

Sufficient be it to the day, that I am, of course, biased to just about everything Venezuelan for, having fallen in love with the country and its people, I am (some might say "lost") to their cause.

It reminds me somewhat of the fact that, having been brought up in rural Ireland, and schooled within a couple of hundred meters of the last resting place of Saint Patrick, himself, I have always marvelled at the "Irishness" of Bostonians who, generally, are more Irish than the Irish! Nothing bad in that, of course, but when you transcribe the phenomenon onto a Venezuelan cultural stage, it seems that that wonderful nation is quite forgetful of its truly Irish heritage.

A Venezuelan Consul General once remarked to me, after publication of my article "How Venezuelan Independence (and South America's) was won by the Irish 187 years ago!" -- that he had had no idea of just how influential the Irish had been in Venezuela's transition from Spanish colonialism to its current ambition towards real-time Bolivarian democracy.

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Offering this then as evidence of my being "more Venezuelan than the Venezuelans," it saddens me greatly that there is so much sectarianism in Venezuela's day-to-day living that we are surely witnessing a re-enactment of the sorry days of Protestant-Catholic divisions in the north of my homeland, inasmuch as you either belong to the one extreme or the other without any provision for anything in between.

Sad though it be, there are indeed those among us who try at least to breach the ever-widening gulf between left and right without falling down the chasm into complete and utter rejection of anything possible towards a unity of the Venezuelan people in a realization that together they can stand united against any perceived foe and come to return to that cultural inheritance that, despite all else, remains in their unextinguished sentiment of family and generous 'mi case es tu casa' (my home is your home) welcome to new friends.

It is only natural, I guess, that when your home is violated and your roof tiles stolen that you should be wary, if not outright suspicious of approaches by suspicious strangers who may readily abuse your friendship and generosity. And it is thus that, perhaps, the citizens (and the government) of the United States of America and other nations should take pause to consider their own history of exploitation, corruption and pork barrelling to understand the deception that many Venezuelans (and indeed the citizens of many other nations around the world) feel towards "gringos" who seem, at first, to come bearing the beads and bangles of peace, but then more or less immediately fall into the asinine traits of the usual bunch of bandits and colonial exploiters of yesteryear.

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Of course there's the counter-culture to take into account too!

Those who, having seen the ruthless way in which "the natives" have been exploited over the past five hundred years, seem to think that they can mimic the same corruption against their fellow citizens with impunity ... and, unfortunately, the residue of Spanish colonial administration that was abandoned by the Spanish but re-worked and developed by their warlord successors through dictatorships and quasi-democracies has helped little to curb the excesses that are so evident in Venezuela to this very day.

Not for the first time in his now almost ten year career as Venezuela's democratically-elected President, Hugo Chavez Frias has issued a clarion call to deal with corruption that still infects every branch of his administration like a parasite that will never go away. In the lead-up to the November 23 local and regional elections, Chavez sees, as plain as the nose on his face, that corruption is endemic in his administration and, far from having been purged, it is flourishing every bit as much as it did under previous presidential administrations which had left the country in a state of bankruptcy and three-digit inflation before he took over the steering wheel at the beginning of February 1999.

The overriding question, however, today, is whether or not Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias has the capacity to do anything about it! Ten years into his presidency, and several overwhelmingly majority re-elections to office since then, it had been hoped that Venezuela would be quite a different place from what it was in December 1998 when he went, successfully, to the polls. The problem is that corruption hasn't been nullified and a new strata of nouveaux riche in his immediate Praetorian Guard point to the conclusion that, somehow, it's a dead duck in the water.

Chavez' stalwart ally, General (ret.) Francisco Rangel Gomez, the State Governor of southeastern Bolivar, formerly head of the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation (CVG) industrial conglomerate of heavy industries in the Guayana region, stands accused in a raft of corruption charges which may range from simple malfeasance with public funds to stuffing wads of greenbacks into his back pocket or spiriting $ millions off to numbered bank accounts offshore and out of range of Venezuelan legal jurisdiction. Who knows? Admittedly it's political hunting season in the run-up to the November elections, but the hallmarks were apparent way before it even came to thinking of holding the elections.

One need only mention Rangel Gomez' expensive purchase of an exclusive and luxuriously equipped private jetliner which has been "explained" as an ambulance flight for urgent cases needing surgery in Caracas while the regions public hospitals and health centers remain in disarray, without equipment and with light-fingered employees who substitute rarely-paid wages for medical supplies and otherwise much-needed drugs to be sold on a ready black market.

My esteemed colleague Alan Woods, editor of the British Marxist.com, recently had occasion to remark directly to Chavez about the omnipresent prevalence of corruption in his government and, reportedly, Chavez made known that the occurrence was, indeed, the bane of his life but that the power for change lay in the hands (and the voting ticket) of the millions of grassroots Venezuelans who scream their approval for Chavez along the routes of his presidential motorcades and at each public meeting where he appears!

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Meanwhile, VHeadline Venezuela Newshour anchor John Sanchez ... born and bred in intensely rural Tachira State, and a declared "Venezuelan to the very bone, and then some" ... takes a more skeptical look at the President's performance and says he has a greater feeling of alliance with mood swings in the PODEMOS ("We can") party, which is itself a breakaway from Chavez' more born-again-cult of personality, Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which excludes previously party faithful at the slightest whiff of dissidence from blind allegiance to the cause -- Chavez' cause!

John says that Podemos leaders have brought a breath of fresh air into Venezuelan politics where he is personally convinced that, while Chavez' original political thesis was what he and everyone else wanted, the Bolivarian project has digressed from its polar north to accept, condone the corruption that has swamped the newly-united left-of-left front in Venezuelan politics, very much to the chagrin of those who had put their faith in Chavez as the man to deal with the very public excesses of previous administrations, only to find them repeated more strongly in his.

John very much doubts Chavez' capacity (or, indeed, his conviction) to deal with the cancer of corruption, especially ahead of the November 23 elections. He says that it appears that Chavez is doing everything to make the correct political noises to convince the Venezuelan people that he is effectively treating the sickness but all the while digging himself deeper into his own grave by allowing his nearest and dearest to commit the most elaborate swindles and covering up their tracks by muzzling the pro-government media and pooh-poohing the manifold attempts of the rather raucous opposition media to highlight what's going wrong.

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Roy S. Carson is veteran foreign correspondent (45+ years in the business) currently editor & publisher of VHeadline Venezuela reporting on news & views from and about Venezuela in South America -- available for interviews -- call Houston (more...)

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