We are all Venezuelans by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

December 22, 2002

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 –with 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 Chávez 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 “Bolivarian Circles’ 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 “vladivideo”, 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 wouldn’t 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 “Letras Libres’ 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! 


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