A week ago, I heard Hugo Chavez say in a very sweeping statement that he had ordered commanders and Governors, not to listen to the Courts whenver they contradicted his decrees. I not only heard it, but all newspapers covered it in the same way, Tal Cual even used it the next day in its headline saying “Being Crazy” with a picture of the President and the same statement everyone heard. Well, today President Chavez wanted to change history saying the media distorts what he says and a comment he made about a judge in Maracaibo, was completely misrepresented. He denied ever saying that or doing it. Interestingly enough, the Court cases that Chavez was referring to that day had nothing to do with a judge in Maracaibo, they dealt with a decision by a control judge in Carabobo state and a decision by the First Circuit Administartive Court of Caracas, one of the best respected Courts in the country. Such is Mr. Chavez’ virtual world!
Archive for December 22nd, 2002
Hugo Chavez said today on his weekly TV program that the oil industry is going back to work. So far only one ship (there are more than one hundred) has moved, and gas lines are huge, so we are not sure what he means by that. Additionally, he said that all oil workers that are on strike are being fired. He denounced corruption in PDVSA and withour giving details, said they will be revealed later.
Separately, many lawyers continue to say nobody can be jailed for not following orders from PDVSA. Lawyers say that the penalties are only when the injunction is accepted, but there is no decision on that, the audience will take place later next week. They also inform that this is not a labor strike and thus the Governemnt can not order people to go back to work like it is pretending to.
Priscilla West, a US citizen who worked for PDVSA in Venezuela for two years has written these two letters that I think are very good and deserve to be read by many both here and abroad. One of them has been published here the other one is this one:
I have never been involved in US politics, but two years working within Venezuela’s petroleum industry placed me squarely in the middle of that country’s political arena. Now back in the US, I am in close contact with Venezuelan counterparts as the current crisis unfolds. The protests, strikes, and eventual violence of the past several weeks have been a greatly intensified repeat of the events of last April… And once again, the scant US coverage of the crisis has been disturbing.
For years I had discounted references to a “liberal media conspiracy.” However, events of the past few weeks have opened my eyes. I became incensed enough to write this letter after reading postings on a pro-Chavez website thanking “brother communist” Ted Turner for his sympathetic treatment of the issue.
CNN Viewers should know that what CNN means by “Chavez was overwhelmingly re-elected to a six-year term in 2000…” is really “Chavez re-wrote the nation’s constitution, increasing his own term to six years.” NPR listeners hearing “…it remains unclear which side is responsible for the shootings,” should know that the shooter had thousands of witnesses, admitted his guilt, and was lauded publicly by president Chavez for his actions. Venezuelan ship captains are NOT “pirates” who have “hijaked” oil tankers off the coast — they dropped anchor in solidarity with over 90% of the nation’s workforce engaged in the strike. The limited US coverage of this crisis is filled with such misrepresentations.
Chavez is a known ally of Fidel Castro, and since his election he has systematically ousted the congress, re-written the constitution, taken away land rights and other freedoms, and imposed a corrupt and non-commercial rule over the state-owned oil company PDVSA. As oil prices have surged, his oil-rich nation’s economy has toppled.
The US media should consider that the leftist Chavez regime it subtly defends has repeatedly tried to revoke Venezuela’s own right to free press. During last April’s protests, local television broadcast signals were suddenly blocked: Live coverage of protestors outside the presidential palace was replaced with a prerecorded speech in which Chavez insisted the “situation (was) normal.” (Several stations were able to reroute signal to broadcast a split screen juxtaposition of Chavez’s absurd speech alongside footage of the actual scene in Caracas.) During the past two weeks, Venezuelan television and radio headquarters have been ransacked and media workers have been physically assaulted at the hands of angry Chavez supporters. Chavez accuses the media of “criminal behavior” for it’s open coverage of the national strike.
We have been preoccupied with Iraq for good reason; However, war with Iraq would make Venezuelan oil supply that much MORE important to our nation. Do we want to be courting a communist dictator in Venezuela? The people of Venezuela have submitted over 2.2 million entries on an official petition for national referendum on Chavez’s rule, organized numerous nationwide labor strikes and peaceful protests, and petitioned the Organization of American States. The nation’s economy has ground to a halt as exports have stopped and local gasoline supplies dwindle. As I type this letter, many of PDVSA’s petroleum professionals are in hiding, because armed national guardsmen have tried to force them from their homes into the office.
These workers want Venezuelan oil to flow freely into the world market just as badly as we do…. But first, they want their democratic nation back!
Concerned Oil Professional
Antonio Guzman Blanco pointed out this very good article by Alvaro Vargas Llosa about the Venezuelan crisis, which I have liberally translated:
We are all Venezuelans by Alvaro Vargas LLosa
With fanfare and ostentation, we Latin-Americans signed the Democratic Charter and said: Never again
But the first test was enough for the Charter to be reduced to wet paper and those that signed it reduced to the condition of Tartuffes. Venezuela has been doing for a year what we Peruvians never had the strength to do during eight years and each day the lack of Latin-American solidarity with its civil resistance becomes more heart rendering. Fortunately, that resistance exhibits courage and organization and Ėwith the paralization of two thirds of the oil industry- some results that could overthrow the regime.
But if this happens, it will be despite Latina America. It will not be our party. Hugo ChŠvez won elections in 1998 and he immediately disfigured democracy, first designing a Constitution-delirium made to his measure, later having himself reelected with an extension of his mandate, even later capturing the supervisory organizations while arming militia units that he called ďBolivarian Circlesí and finally, assuming powers to capture by decree the economic system.
Last year, he precipitated the crisis with 49 expropriatory decrees which concentrated in the Presidency the destiny of all homes. On December 10 2001, with the first strike against Chavez, civil resistance was born. Since then it has never stopped. Chavez has sustained his power on the military, on the mobs that terrorize politicians, reporters and demonstrators, and oil, which, with almost three million barrels a day, of which two million are exported, oxygenated an economy in ruins. So far in this fight, Chavez has fathered two massacres, one in April and another in December and has continued to refuse to a disproportionately cautious request: early elections or referendum.
While this drama is displayed, Latin America makes faces once in a while so that it does not appear as if it is not doing anything. Cesar Gaviria, allowed himself to drop by Caracas. He did not arrive like the leader of the OAS to tell Chavez: You have overflowed legality, thus, honor the Democratic Charter and unless you fix an acceptable date for elections, we will apply the sanctions. No: without the mandate that he was not given, but also without the leadership that he did not give himself, he arrived as a tourist. He proclaimed the equivalence of the parts and asked for a negotiated solution. While this happened, the brains of the opposition were flying through the air of Plaza Altamira, Chavista mobs assaulted TV channels and soldiers captured Captains of the Merchant Marine joining the strike aboard their tankers (potential torches) filled with fuel.
The dialogue table, like what happened in Peru, is virtual. What is real is what happens outside: without the ďvladivideoĒ, Fujimori did not make a single concession despite the saliva spent in that negotiation, and, without the addition of Petroleos de Venezuela and the Merchant Marine to the strike, he wouldnít even have offered a popular election in August.
The OAS is a ship adrift and it reaches good port only when the drift takes it there-after many deaths and injuries. Latin-American Governments believe that, by avoiding the application of the Charter, they avoid being victims of their own people. Poor devils. The number one problem of the continent, that which precisely has it under the threat of civilian overflow over the Governments is the lack of legitimacy of its leadership class.
To sustain the tyrant of a neighbor country and abandon to their luck the people which are being shot at in the streets is the worst form, for a Latin American Government, to make itself legitimate in front of its own people. Illegitimacy of the governing class is born in the loss of credibility.
It is a sentimental abyss that the treason against the Venezuelan people increases rather than decrease. That is why, the coward calculation of our Governments, which believe they can buy internal peace looking the other way in Venezuela, is in the end the best demonstration that its rebel civil societies are correct in believing that they are not credible.
Maybe the Governments have turned their backs to you, dear Venezuelans. But we, those on foot, have not done so. I remember with emotion having accompanied you in the streets last year and having forecasted, in ďLetras Libresí that that December 10 was the memorable beginning of a memorable campaign. In this era in which it is not so much the Governments, up there, like the societies, down here, the ones that represent countries, know that you are not alone.
Our leaders have not found out yet, but in the plains, we are all Venezuelans!