Archive for January 20th, 2003
Juan Nagel, whom I don’t know wrote this letter in response to the Washington Post article by Mr. Weisbro:
Dear Mr. Weisbrot
I read your article on Venezuela that appeared in Sunday’s Washington Post (“A Split-Screen in Strike Torn Venezuela”) and felt compelled to write to you about it. I am a Venezuelan, and I oppose Pres. Chavez, but in this letter, I do not intend to insult you or disregard everything you say. I know you have traveled to Venezuela and are aware of the shouting matches that sometimes pass off as discussions in the current political environment. I would simply like to point out several aspects of your argument that are, in the opinion of many, mistaken.
You state that what is happening is an “oil strike” rather than a general strike. That is probably true, although in Venezuela it is hard to distinguish the two. You also correctly state that private media is controlled by the opposition, and is increasingly biased against the government. What you fail to acknowledge is that, like in any country with a semblance of democracy, they have a right to be biased. Moreover, the state media, which is supported by our tax bolivares, is shamelessly pro-Chavez. You also fail to address why the media is biased against Chavez the way it is. Have you ever wondered what would happen if Pres. Bush continuously denounced CNN as being opposed to his agenda, or blaming NBC news for a strike, for causing economic chaos and the loss of his popularity? What would happen if Republican activists attacked the offices of CNN, or threw rocks at Andrea Mitchell or Wolf Blitzer? What if Mr. Bush were to use NPR as his personal propaganda machine? Do you think this would win Mr. Bush the favor of the media and/or reporters? True, the private media is pretty biased against Chavez. What do you propose to remedy this? Censorship? Takeover of TV stations?
The issue of the media is a complicated one. Ask any government and they will always complain about the media being after them. However, *competent* governments have an informational strategy that consists of a bit more than berating, demeaning and threatening major media outlets. That is the least one would expect from a respectable administration – to work with the media in spite of the media’s hatred of the government. This, however, is not how the Chavez regime operates.
You talk about the media shamelessly blaming the government for the Plaza Altamira massacre. On January 3rd, two “chavista” supporters were killed, apparently in a shootout that began when they violently confronted a much more numerous opposition march. The president and all his cabinet quickly blamed the Metropolitan Police and used the occasion to “deepen the intervention” of that body, forgetting that many Metropolitan Police officers and opposition marchers were also shot at and wounded. No proof, no fair judgment, no legal process was needed. Why do you not mention this? Is it bad when the media passes judgment without proof, but OK when the President does it? Shouldn’t they be held to *at least* the same standard? Or perhaps, shouldn’t the President be held to a *higher* standard? After all, if one doesn’t like a particular channel, one can turn it off. It is much harder to turn off the government. I simply do not understand why you tolerate the behavior of Chavez when you find the same conduct in private media outlets inexcusable.
You say that the view in Caracas‘ barrios is that the opposition is bent on unfairly overthrowing a government that represents them. Why, then, do all opinion polls give Chavez at the most 30% support? Have the barrios all of the sudden become the minority in Venezuela? Has the country been taken over by the middle and upper classes? Reasonable polling shows that Chavez has minority support even within the poorest. The majority of the population (rich and poor, dark and white) want him out because Chavez has been a terrible President, and you know it. Independent polls state that close to 90% of the populations want early elections to end the standoff. How this is compatible with what you claim is the majority view in the barrios?
You also describe the oil situation saying: “Over the last quarter-century PDVSA has swelled to a $50 billion a year enterprise, while the income of the average Venezuelan has declined and poverty has increased more than anywhere in Latin America. Billions of dollars of the oil company’s revenue could instead be used to finance health care and education for millions of Venezuelans.” You’re right, they could be. The questions is, what has Chavez done with all the oil income he’s received? Your paragraph above would also describe the Chavez revolution’s economic and social record. Are you aware that since Chavez took office, oil exports have increased 41% relative to the previous four years, public spending has increased (in dollar terms) by 46%, and yet real GDP per capita has declined by 17%, capital flight has increased 950%, the minimum wage has gone from $177 a month to $137 a month, unemployment has gone from 11% to 17% (and climbing), and crime has nearly doubled? Are these not important indicators? Do these seem like indicators of a progressive administration that is addressing poverty? Or, perhaps in your view, the poor don’t mind greater unemployment and crime as long as the person on top looks and talks like them.
The Chavez government inherited many social and economic problems. This is undeniable, and is actually the cause of his ascension to power. However, any objective analysis has to conclude that Mr. Chavez has only made matters worse and that poverty has indeed increased, whether it is the fault of striking workers, businesses or his own fault. Moreover, this has happened under favorable external conditions, with a high price of oil. This administration’s performance is simply inexcusable considering all the political, institutional and, yes, economic support it had at the beginning of its term. Most of Venezuela‘s elites and the media were quick to endorse Chavez when it was clear he was going to win comfortably in 1998. For two years, Col. Chavez held sky-high popularity levels, only to squander them due to inefficiency, corruption and permanent confrontation.
You also talk about class and race. Indeed, there are certain levels of classist and racist sentiment among the Venezuelan opposition. These are feelings all mixed societies face: after all, how many poor or black presidents has the U. S. had? However, this didn’t prevent people from massively backing Chavez in the beginning. Have we all of the sudden discovered that Chavez is not white and not from the posh neighborhoods of Caracas? I’m afraid your line of argument on this matter cannot overcome the obstacle of Chavez’s previous popularity. Nor can it overcome the high social mobility present in Venezuela, at least when compared to other Latin American countries.
Finally, you talk about the U. S. role in this whole crisis. I understand your reasons for criticizing the Bush administration on this matter, since you have an agenda like many Washington think-tanks do. However, the CIA and all its might would have never been able to orchestrate the massive demonstrations against the government taking place all over the country. Your over-emphasis of the U. S. in this crisis undermines the immense effort that millions of Venezuelans are undertaking to get rid of a corrupt, inefficient government that is a threat to its democracy. These people are not being paid, and they are not being manipulated. They are simply expressing their anger and frustration at a government that has simply become unviable and unable to address the basic needs of the Venezuelan people.
And, on a final note, go blue.
Juan C. Nagel
Ph. D. Candidate
Department of Economics
The University of Michigan
Globovision is just reporting that all of the active Generals of the National Guard are asking for the removal of Gen. Acosta Carles, of burp, coke and beer confiscation fame, as Head of the region called CORE-2. Stay tuned……Chavez backed Acosta yesterday on TV.
Among the charges against the TV stations: showing CNN interviews, criticizing the President’s trips, being critical of the President speaking out against the church and showing “ads” that were not appropriate and showing “somber” and “pathetic” images…. Sounds like censorship to me. What’s next, the Internet?
The opposition organized a march today south of Caracas. As we have become accostumed to, Chavez’ supporters were waiting for it and one person was killed and 29 were injured. The National Guard was there but did nothing, neither did the local police. The Mayor responsible for the local police blamed the Governor of Miranda State Enrique Mendoza for organizing the march and said in the best facist style: “I hope he has understood that this region is pro-Chavez”. The picture below shows a guy shooting at the opposition from a moving jeep. The car plates are on the image, but nothing will happen, the Government will investigate nothing.
Catasetum Pileatum Catasetum Pendare
Catasetum Catasetum Macrocarpoum
Juli Carbonell kindly sent these wonderful pictures of orchids from the genera Catasetum to attempt to free us from the tension and stress of the political conflict. Thanks!!
when I arrived at the Civic Center (the site of the rally) there was already assembled a sizeable (100 – 200 people) anti-Chavez contingent off to one side. They were great; all festooned in colorful outfits, waving Venezuelan flags, banging on drums, and singing this wonderful song/chant about how “He must go!” I went over to talk to them and was happy to see that several of their signs said things like “Chavez = Communist,” etc. Just then the main anti-war march arrived at the plaza led, of course, by the hard-core Socialist Worker Party types who were the main organizers of the event. As they passed in front of the laughing, singing Venezuelans I saw some of the dour communists recoiling as they read the anti-communist signs of the anti-Chavez crowd. The Venezuelans, on the other hand, surged forward in warm solidarity with the marchers causing the SWP drones to go quite a bit out of their way to avoid contact with the ideologically un-clean. This deformation of the march only ended once the true-believer vanguard had passed and the marchers became more ordinary Bay Area lefties who were only too happy to greet and enjoy the Venezuelans. I don’t think the Anti-Chavez folks ever understood why they were at first shunned by their fellow demonstrators.
I am glad Venezuelans everywhere are keeping the spirit, mantaining the cheerfulness and friendliness that we are accustomed to. Imagine this multiplied by four or five orders of magnitude, we do it four or five times a week!
My brother and I, at the suggestion of politicaobscura, have planned to have a Blog Day for Venezuela on January 23d, the 45th. anniversary of the overthrow of the our last dictatorsip. The idea is that on that day, those that would like to participate will either put the banner above in their page designed by us to that effect or a text which links directly to the following page, where we simply are calling for elections as a resolution to the Venezuelan crisis:
As threatened by Hugo Chavez in his Friday address to the Nation, a TV station was visited today by officials from the Infrastructure and communications Ministry to serve notice that a procedure was opened against. The charge is unclear at this time but it has to do with broadcasting ads in favor of the opposition’s marches and demonstrations as well as the promotion of the civil strike. Curiously, the notification did not follow the law because cameras began taping the officials and they left, apparently beacuse they did not wnat their faces shown on TV. Maybe they were ashamed of participating in this type of action. According to the lawyers, the procedure is not valid as the law were not followed. Well, the guy who served the papers now went back to make sure things were done legally, what incompentence.
A second TV station was visited now, according to the lawyers the Government is seeking to suspend the TV station. I am still not clear on what grounds. It does sound like the Dictator is removing his mask, between this and what happened on Friday. The beginning of intimidation or outright repression? What a way to welcome Jimmy Carter to the negotiations!
COFAVIC the well respected human rights organization said today that the level of impunity is on the increase in Venezuela. The Head of COFAVIC said that acts against Human Rights are beinmg committed with “more obscene impunity”. COFAVIC says that it is rare what is happening in Venezuela, where “the criminals televise their acts and have had the unrestricted backiing of the State”. She said that in Latin America criminals acted under the shadows but in Venezuela thhey are acting in front of everyone because they are protected.She noted that there has been no public statement about the actions on Friday by the National Guard that are supposed to protect the rights of Venezuelans.