Letter to my fellow Venezuelans who want change

June 23, 2006

My fellow
Venezuelans in the opposition:

I hope I
can catch your attention for a few minutes now that the first stage of the
futbol World Cup is over and before you immerse yourself in the next stage with
the same passion, joy and dedication that you did in the first. I must say that
I find such passion remarkable, given that the event is one month long, that
Venezuela did not qualify and that futbol, as we call soccer in Venezuela, is
not as much of an integral part of our heritage or our competence, as other sports

And I am
impressed by the passion, I have seen cars and motorcycles with as many as four
flags from different countries, I have seen stores in the streets with crowds
watching on the plasma TVís that have become ubiquitous both in stores and food
places, whether areperas or fancy restaurants. I have also noticed how the
horrible Caracas
traffic simply dies out during games; buses run empty at those times and there
as fewer people in the streets.

However, I
would like to call your attention to a number of concerns:

First of
all, while you were watching the Iran-Angola match, the CNE appointed the most
mediocre universities in the country to audit the REP rejecting more
prestigious and capable ones, Chavez dressed in military uniform and caressed
the first 30,000 Kalashnikov rifles to arrive in Venezuela, the CNE ordered an
additional 4,000 fingerprint capture machines for the December elections, the National Assembly threatened to impose
even more ferrous controls over NGOís that are already in place, Chavez said he
would visit North Korea (and North Vietnam!), the Ministry of Finance bought U$
242 million more of Argentinean bonds and 660 homicides occurred since the
World Cup began.

My point
is very simple: Yes, the World Cup is fun to watch, but by the time you watch
the final match between Germany
and England
(bold prediction from someone that knows little here), a full month would have
gone by. This means that we would have lost 30 days out of the 174 days we had
left until the December Presidential election. It may not seem like much on the
scale of the fourth time dimension implied. But it is a long time given what is
at stake and how little time there is to change the outcome of the upcoming
Presidential election.

You donít
think the election will be fair? You donít think we have a chance? You think it
is irrelevant? You may be right in one, two or three of these questions, I just
donít know. But what I do believe is that we just canít give up. Everyone has
to pitch in a little bit of his/her time, in his/her own way. You can work for
a candidate; you can work for an NGO. You can talk to someone, you can send an
e-mail. You can start your own goofball project. You can write an article.
Nobody is going to come and solve our problems, we have to do it ourselves and
we have to keep the same democratic spirit alive that we have had ever since
the autocrat was first elected. The alternative is just not acceptable.

Government is a gigantic failure. Yes, Chavezís promises capture the
imagination of the have-nots, convincing them that he really cares or that he
will deliver something someday. But we all know it is all smoke and mirrors and
that all he cares about is his personal project as leader of the third world,
which is not what he was elected for. Meanwhile, he selects the unconditional but incompetent
collaborators to run things, insuring that 99% of his projects will be a

Thus, he
can be defeated, even as he cheats. He is not as popular as the Government
wants to convince us he is. His hard core support is as large as our hard core
opposition. Those in between, those that have yet to see ďel queso a la
tostadaĒ (the cheese in the sandwich) are wavering. And they need little to be
convinced that the fake revolution is a sham. They see Chavez everyday giving
away our wealth to other countries and other people before our own problems
have even been tackled, let alone solved. They see him buying weapons, spending
more than half his time abroad, reneging on almost all of his promises, they
see the revolutionaries leaders and military officers in fancy cars, corruption
rampant, security non-existent, housing starts at the lowest kevels of a decade
despite a huge oil windfall, they see an intolerant Government using
doublespeak at every turn, they see internal disputes over the bounty, they see
people going hungry, kids dying of malnutrition, tropical diseases on the increase, they see
more corruption, hospitals that donít work, they see the poor protest, the
students protest and even the revolutionaries protest. The poor may be hopeful,
romantic, but most Venezuelans are intelligent and they realize that the
revolution has not delivered and are doubting that it ever will. Thus we have a
chance, but we have to work at it.

Thus, all
I ask is that before July 9th. when the World Cup ends, you spend
the time equivalent to the duration of a game doing something to help Venezuela
become a better country, more democratic, fairer, convince someone we need change, work for
someone campaigning for change, get involved. Once again, no magic solution
will come out of nowhere, we are the solution, and we have to work at it. You
can never have too much democracy, you can never have too much involvement, you
can never allow the autocrat and his new very rich oligarchy take over to the
extent that we are not heard, felt or controlled.

And after
July 9th. double the time you devote to this cause. If each and
everyone does that, we will surely be able to shake the ground on which the
autocrat stands. Just think, we are committed, we believe that change is
needed, but only 17% of the Chavistas are equally committed. If we all show up
to express our dissatisfaction on December 3d. even if we really are a minority,
which I donít believe we are, we would still get more votes than the other
side. But we have to work at it! Freedom is just not a gift, sometimes you have
to earn it or fight for it

Thus, my
fellow Venezuelans, before you go back to the games of the next round, think
hard about the future, think hard about the possibilities, enjoy the games, but
save something of that passion, dedication and joy for a more important,
meaningful and higher cause.

Your friendly blogger

P.S. I hope you don’t take my prediction for the World Cup final as serious as you take my letter

(The Spanish version is over at Cuentos Intrascendentes)

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