Archive for November 13th, 2002

First violent day while Cesar Gaviria is here

November 13, 2002

Up to now, the Chavez Government has been careful in controlling violent outbursts while OAS Secretary General and mediator Cesar Gaviria has been here. This has been part of the two-faced strategy of promoting the Chavez administration as a good citizen of the international community. Well, the strategy lasted until today when very violent demonstrations took place in downtown Caracas which resulted in one person dead and ten injured. This is an indication of the deterioration of general conditions as well as the apparent loss of control by the Government over the Bolivarian circles.

It all began in the morning, when cops from the metropolitan police who are striking blocked the main access to the city council building. A group of 25 people took over the building where the Mayor of the Metropolitan area, the Governor of Miranda state Enrique Mendoza and other members of the democratic coordinating committee were meeting. According to former Governor of Merida state William Davila, all was well while tear gas was being used but suddenly shots were fired from outside the building forcing the police and the National Guard to act. Demonstrators moved their protest to other areas of Caracas where violence continued until sunset. The Government was quick to blame the Mayor of the Metropolitan area in another attempt to blame violence on the opposition, but it was clear that shots were fired by the violent demonstrators and not the police or the National Guard. The Mayor said that when he went to the local hospital where many of the injured were taken, he was almost lynched by a crowd led by opposition deputy Iris Varela. As usual the Government said it would investigate fully the violent acts of today.

Gaviria was forceful today in condemning the violence while being diplomatic about it. Said Gaviria: “a certain level of impunity is being planted in Venezuela with respect to some violent events and a custom that such events sometimes are never clarified”. Clearly, he was putting the Government on the spot. The Government accused the opposition of playing a double game while appearing to be doing the same when it wrote a letter to the UN General Secretary criticing the opposition. Such a strategy takes away from the dialogue being promoted in Caracas by Gaviria and may represent a strategy of eventually disqualifying Gavirai as a mediator if talks fail or if Gaviria begins criticizing the Government’s negotiating position.

Meanwhile the negotiations seemed to be stalled somewhat today as the Government continued to make accusations against the opposition while the opposition mantains its stance that the only negotiations are about the elections as the Nov. 4th. request for a referendum is a process based on the Constitution and can not be stopped. Apparently the Government has even questioned the Declaration of Principles signed by Vice-President Rangel in October which set the stage for the negotiations.

The Failure of the left

November 13, 2002

 While many countries in Latin America turn to the left, I have always found it intriguing that the so-called neoliberal policies are criticized as having failed, but little mention is made of the success of economies like that of Singapore, Malaysia, Korea or closer to home, that of Chile. I have written a couple of articles pointing this out in El Universal, a Caracas daily on my impressions on Malaysia as well as the success of dollarization in El Salvador. Below, I translate freely a good article by Luis Henrique Ball The Failure of the Left which in very clear and succinct fashion points similar concepts out:

Since 1958 Venezuela has not had anything but left-wing governments. The ideas of Romulo Betancourt and Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo dominated the national political agenda during the first decade of democracy and state capitalism, oil production limits, price controls and protectionism made their appearance in our country. During the seventies, the social justice of Rafael Caldera came accompanied by more controls, more protectionism, the nationalization of foreign-owned electrical and telecommunications companies and the limitations to foreign companies in the banking business. Then came Perez I and left us with labor legislation copied from Peronismo, a Central Bank and an oil industry in the hands of the state, with both local and foreign capital expelled from all the profitable areas of the economy and planting the bases for the fiscal drain of the Guayana companies. Herrera and Lusinchi practically eliminated free trade with Recadi (the office that managed exchange controls) and controls of all kinds.

Perez II was the first Latin-American politician to attempt the juggling which since then many have imitated: a market economy with a controlled society. Perez, much like later Menem, Cardozo and others did, tried to obtain the benefits of the capitalistic system without dismounting the cronyism of a regulated economy and fundamentally leaving intact the capitalism of the state. Caldera II emulated Lusinchi during his first years, while later trying an about face without conviction.

Thus, we arrive at Chavez who never hid his political tendencies or his revolutionary fervor. In only three and a half years of his Government he has increased poverty and street-peddling to levels never thought possible as recently as five years earlier, and even worse, has presided over the disassembling of the productive fabric of the nation to such levels, that it will likely take a generation to recuperate it.

This is the legacy of a shared vision of society, a vision that has been more radical in some cases than others, but that in its origins it all originates in Marx.

In this moment, when Venezuela may be seeing some light at the end of the labyrinth, it is worth analyzing which have been the successful countries during the last forty years, which countries have been able to generate wealth and more well-being to their populations. Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia were dirt poor nations compare with Venezuela in 1958. Today they are richer and more prosperous nations than ours, and coincidentally, in those countries academics and intellectuals were never seduced by socialism. Chile, the most successful nation in Latin America, was the only one to completely disassemble the legal and institutional structure that the left had built during decades and Great Britain, which thanks to Margaret Thatcher; the same was done and is a symbol of European prosperity.

Today, Venezuelans should be attentive and insure that once the current nightmare is overcome we will not return to the past.

Corruption in Chavez’ time by Agustin Beroes

November 13, 2002

I received today a link to this web site “La corrupcion en tiempos de Chavez” (Corruption in Chavez’ time) which contains a very complete and well documented set of most of the accusations of corruption against Chavez’ Government. The site is written by Agustin Beroes who used to write for El Nacional and wrote a book about the exchange control office Recadi, one of the biggest corruption cases in the history of Venezuela. The site contains a lot of information and apperas to be very complete and the compilation alone is fantastic. Anybody who ever believed in Chavez’ revolution can only be convinced that it is a “robolucion” (robo means steal in Spanish). It is sufficient to say that nobody has been jailed on corruption charges during the Chavez administration and that many of the principals in these stories still occupy important positions in the Chavez administration.