When Governments simply don’t care…

December 30, 2003


Via the Instapundit I get to read a bunch of articles on the Iranian earthquake that remind me a lot of what happens in Venezuela. First of all, I find this thought on the comparison of the two societies quite insightful from an article in The Guardian:


“you would anticipate a culture of corporate greed in which safety and regulation came way behind the desire to turn the quick buck. Instead you discover a society in which the protection of citizens from falling masonry seems to be regarded as enormously important”


Because it turns out that the reason a weaker quake in Bam, Iran, killed 40,000 while a stronger one killed only three is simply neglect on the part of the Government and not, as many think, the fact that the houses are made of mud. In fact, it turns out that modern buildings and hospitals were the first to collapse as described here or as someone is quoted in the previous article:


“How many times have we reminded the ruling establishment that the first structures to fall during a major earthquake would be those dealing with emergency management and relief, such as hospitals, police and fire stations? The officials in charge are either deaf or simply don’t care.”


Or as Iranian blogger Derakshan says:


“Nothing could ever show the real sense of diconnectivity and distrust between Iranian people and the Islamic regime, and its deeply dysfunctionality better than a devastating quake.”   or


“When a government can run the whole country only by the oil and gas income, it doesn’t have to answer its people’s needs; it only thinks about its own needs.”  or


“So it’s not important for the government that tens of thousands of lives are lost in road accidents every year, or millions are living in homes poorly resistible against any earthquake bigger than 5 Richter, or millions are open to different kinds of cancer because of the poisonously polluted air of Tehran, etc.” or


“But they are pretty concerned about their own power and the threat from their own enemies; so they are always ready to spend a whole year of oil income, $16 billion, to achieve nuclear technology to use it as defensive weapons.”


It all seems so familiar. Traffic accidents are the third cause of death in Venezuela despite or because of its poor roads. The number of murders in Caracas has increased from 1400 in 1998 (which was too high already!!) to 2265 in 2003 (From today’s El Nacional). It makes you wonder whether if an earthquake like the one in 1967 hit Caracas, which had an intensity of 6.5 in the Richter scale and killed 300 people, more buildings built since then would collapse than the ones that withstood that quake.  In fact, many Venezuelans still remember how our current President was like Nero with Rome in flames, as mudslides killed an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 people in 1999. The rains had been heavy for days and the warning signs were there. But the priority was to complete the referendum approving the new Constitution. It got done as the mudslides hit their peak in earnest. There is still no accounting for the funds earmarked for reconstructing the disaster area.


Thus, politicians, fundamentalists and corrupt Government officials are very much the same everywhere. Remarkably, so is the effect of The Devil’s Excrement on people’s frame of mind as demonstrated by an Iranian who is quoted as saying:


“disgrace that a rich country like ours with all the revenue from oil and other natural resources is not prepared to deal with an earthquake”.


This sounds so familiar, many Venezuelans think like that. Amazingly enough, Iran has oil income which is slightly below Venezuela’s, but it has 66 million people versus Venezuela’s 25 million. And whether we like it or not, both countries are indeed poor.

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