Most people assume (or presume) that my disagreement or that of others to the Chavez Government is based on objections to the economic policies of the Government. To me what Chavez is doing on the economy is really not that different to what has been happening in Venezuela since 1958, if not longer. Populism has been the rule of the day in Venezuela for a long time. State capitalism was the norm, not the exception, to the democratic era that started in 1958. Of the last five Presidents, four have had exchange controls. All led to huge corruption, much like today, all led to huge devaluations when oil prices turned down, all led to artificialities in the economy that become harder to resolve as time goes on.
This is not the first Government “for and of” the poor. AD was the party of the people. Luis Herrera was the President of the poor. Jaime Lusinchi was like the average Venezuelan, Caldera II was a Government for the poor and Carlos Andres nationalized the oil and iron industries for the people.
On social programs, the Misiones are reminiscent of many things I have seen before. I have read about the �Gota de Leche� de Lopez Contreras, I saw the waste of Larrazabal�s Plan de Emergencia, the failure of Romulo�s agrarian reform, Caldera�s offer to build and give away 500,000 houses in five years, Luis Herrera increased salaries to all when there was 5% unemployment by 40% setting up the first devaluation. Lusinchi had the Modulos in the barrios, a Cuban-less form of barrio Adentro. CAP II had beca salario, beca alimentaria, vaso de leche and they were much like what has happened in this Government they did not have the sustainability required of such programs to really make a difference, neither have the programs that Chavez started in the first three or four years of his Government. In fact, his much ballyhooed Institute for Land is an empty and bureaucratic shell which has taken more away from the farmers than it has given them.
In fact, neither Chavez nor any of the opposition self-promoted leaders (much like Chavez) have any form of concrete economic proposal or system to make the Venezuelan economy grow sufficiently to reduce poverty significantly.
What I do object and has made me militantly anti-Chavez is his disregard for the law: There is simply no rules of law in Venezuela. There are no checks and balances. Impunity rules. Neither the poor nor the rich can count on independent institutions to defend their rights or their property. The Government determines how judges rule, what prosecutors bring to Court, what the National Assembly decides. Was it better before? Definitely Yes, people quickly forget that Carlos Andres Perez was impeached, something that was only possible because there was a political independent Attorney General that accused him, a Supreme Court that allowed the case to proceed and a Congress with two Chambers that impeached him.
None of that exists today. You could show a video of a Government official taking a bribe and the judicial system would protect him. In fact, last week�s murder in plaza Altamira seems to be taking the strange twist that the Attorney general and his office are saying that the murderers caught on videotape, were defending themselves in a legal defense argument reminiscent of the Puente El LLaguno case. In fact, pictures have now been found showing how the pro-Chavez caravan arrived in Plaza Altamira where a crowd of opposition people were protesting. In the following you actually see the murderers getting out of the cars even before they arrive in the plaza:
All of this comes to mind because there is an extraordinary interview in local paper La Razon with Carlos Escarra. Escarra is a rabid Chavista who says that now the referendum ahs been won, the Government has to initiate these initiatives:
-Attack impunity, which to him implies dismounting the judicial system, removing everyone from the Supreme Court, everyone in PDVSA, the Comptroller, the Attorney General and the People�s Ombudsman.
-A revolutionary purge so that the Government functions in an honest, efficient, effective manner and at the service of the people. The corrupt of the process have to leave and the corrupt of previous Governments have to go to jail.
-Create jobs and increase salaries.
-Unify the country.
Now, this reads like Chavez� promises when he first won in 1998 anyway, so I wonder what Escarra thinks Chavez has been doing for five years. In fact, Chavez replaced everyone in the Supreme Court, has replaced judges to the point that 60% of the courts are in the hands of temporary judges and packed the Government with his supporters in such a way that if you are not with the revolution, you are not even given service.
The most remarkable part of the interview, after saying all decision makers at PDVSA have to be removed is what Escarra has to say about the Comptroller, the Attorney General and the People�s Ombudsman:
�The comptroller has become like Rafael Caldera, one does not know if he exists or not and if he exists is to attack silly things and not important matters, this man used to be combative, but even his soul has cooled down�.Mundarain the People�s Ombudsman has devoted his time to international relations, traveling all over the world. I had cases where I would call his office and there was not even the minimal attention to these cases, that institution is a white elephant, an institution placed at the service of the international relations of one person. I a friend of the Attorney General but sincerely he has not been able to manage his office�
After reading this, I would love to be able to ask Mr. Escarra why none of this was done in the last five years, why he thinks it will be done now and finally, why does he still believe in Chavez? After all, he sounds like me in his wholesale condemnation of the rule of law and honesty in the Chavez Government.