Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I used to be an unflinching Chavez supporter ... but ... it's not so easy any more!

I have to congratulate Ms. Cortazar for her opinion, it's hard to recognize when we are wrong. She is acting as a true Venezuelan patriot. Venezuela is not about Chavez's personal failures, or Manuel Rosales, or Teodoro, or the 4ta ó 5ta Republica, or the MVR. Venezuela is about Venezuela!

(H/T to Ed Brown for the link)

From vheadines.com:

In a hard-hitting editorial from an especially 'inside government' point of view, VHeadline.com guest commentarist Alexandra Cortazar writes: I've recently been going through a bit of an ideological crisis, working in the (Venezuelan) government and all, seeing things from the inside.

Working in a ministry department, I've noticed that the media has a lot of power ... I work with a bunch of them every day. "Institutional" press is simply a euphemism for propaganda pusher. Yes, we give hope to people, but we are also creating an artificial bubble of selected information passed as exaggerated achievements, to give the impression of progress, when in reality, bureaucracy and inefficiency have engulfed this government beyond comprehension ... despite millions of dollars in investment and resources.

  • That's just the tip of the iceberg, though, and what I wonder is whether the powers-that-be are the responsible ones ... or whether it's an underlying facet of the Venezuelan society's essence.

Are things here ever going to change? I really doubt it.

Do I sound like the opposition or what? It's not that, though...

I've just started to realize, with help and through my own experience, that maybe things aren't as black and white as I thought they were. Don't get me wrong ... I'm still set on some of my positions, such as anti-Americanism and pacifism, and deep down, I continue to be a leftist, concerned for social justice ... but most important, poverty reduction.

  • However, I used to defend Chavez "a capa y espada" (unflinching supporter) like we say here in Venezuela, but now... it's not so easy to do so any more.

I guess I'm disappointed ... the veil has fallen from my eyes ... I hate the fact that we're still Third World ... still underdeveloped ... still poor... and it's not just us here, it's all of Latin America.

If Latin America was suddenly wiped out in some non-violent way ... I mean, if we simply disappeared ... do you realize that in economic terms it would most likely matter at all? It would probably decrease the number of poor in the world. It's truly sad, but true.

We have to face it ... populism, solidarity, human development ... it's not getting us out of poverty. It's not a solution in the long term. I've said it before ... we'll be living longer lives, with more access to water ... we'll be able to read and write ... that's great ... but what happens when people remain poor? When a country remains underdeveloped and irrelevant? Revolutions can't last forever ... there has to be a period of stabilization, a period of progress.

I'm not pointing fingers here, though I'm just attempting to describe the situation or at least some of my thoughts about it.

Twenty-first century socialism in Venezuela? What a crock. I don't even mean it pejoratively ... it's just such a naive concept. My country is plagued with Venezuelans that love to shop, get drunk on the weekends and protest working conditions to get more money/benefits without being productive, by means of the unions, which in turn are plagued with "fourth republic" power-hungry burros.

Business here is run under a failed capitalist model that nobody complains about. Goods and services are crap ... as well as customer service. Yet God forbid anyone tries to stop Venezuelans from buying things. In case you haven't been here, we're characterized for living off "el cuento y las cuentas" ("tall tales and bills" -- getting in debt, being irresponsibly poor by spending money on stuff you can't afford just to show off... and so on and so forth) and we love it.

We're buying more cars than ever, drinking Scotch, eating McDonald's in obnoxious rates (thanks, ironically enough, to higher government spending, which gives a boost to consumer demand), having lavish parties and increasing sales at malls. To top it off, trade with the US is also on the rise.

Seems to me like Chavez' rhetoric has fallen on deaf ears.

Venezuela's cup runneth over ... and the Scotch whisky flows

Paseo El Hatillo Mall, Caracas

Sambil Mall, Caracas

Sad but true, kids.

Every day, I read the economic news since I work in a (government) entity dealing with industries and trade, and I tell you, it gets depressing. It's extremely frustrating to see other countries, both democracies and dictatorships (such as India or Singapore, respectively) developing at great rates ... people getting out of poverty, even taking jobs away from industrialized nations ... and none of them ever even got close to this model we're trying out here.

Chavez has traveled a lot this year, and he's actually a smart man so why aren't we learning anything from these other countries?

  • Why do we continue on this path of idealism that will only keep us in "dignified" poverty, instead of bringing us out into prosperity and economic relevance?

What do we do instead? We keep subsidizing Western creeps who just feel contempt for us, or come to do a bit of ideological tourism, praise the revolution, claim to hate the Empire and then expect to get a wad of cash or a bit of international recognition by doing these minuscule actions.

How many "hippies" have come here for the World Social Forum and assorted leftist events, simply to smoke pot, screw around and admire how unlike their countries we are?

Sure, it's great when you come here and it's an adventure, and in two weeks time, you get to go back home to your roads without potholes, air-conditioned homes, your great customer service, your booming industries and your impeccable, crimeless streets ... because you don't have to deal with this crap every damned day.

Despite the fact that our help was rejected in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli failed to recognize Venezuela's aid to Americans through CITGO (which he described as "an American company helping Americans"); that a recent poll by Quinnipiac University showed US Americans feel warmer towards the so-called "cheese-eating surrendering monkeys" in France, the Chinese "Threat" and the Saudi Arabian dictatorship than about Venezuela ... among many other slaps in the face we have received from that ethno-centric nation … it is startling (to say the least) to see that Venezuelan fuel now goes to Alaskans in the United States ... as well as cheap diesel goes to one of the richest cities in the world, London.

So much for anti-imperialism and the Non-Aligned Movement crap...

The rather hilarious thing is the fact that, even as we Venezuelans continue giving away our oil to imperialists, in a "solidarity" effort to help the poor in the United States (who should be taken care of by THEIR elected government, not OURS), some US Americans are actually calling for a boycott of CITGO because of Chavez' latest remarks about their president at the United Nations ... even some prominent democrats came to Bush's rescue, calling Chavez a "thug" and condemning him for speaking his mind at the talk shop that is the UN General Assembly.

The punch line of this entire circus of hypocrisy?

On September 28, the Ledger Enquirer (Georgia) reported that some beneficiaries of the CITGO heating oil program are having "second thoughts." Que malagradecidos!

So much complaining about Bush, so much gnashing of teeth regarding "stolen" elections, statements saying that "Bush is not my president," and then, what? Americans once again stand behind their choice of 2000 and 2004, proving that indeed, they are not exempt from the blame shifted on "the US government" instead of the American people as a whole.

It's not working ... it's not working at all ... nobody's giving any solutions and we're just stuck on the wrong paths to economic development while continuing on a two-sided discourse that just makes a mockery of Venezuelans and whatever ideology was brewing here.

Where's the solidarity towards us, Venezuelans? What are we getting from these deals?

I understand when we help sister nations such as Cuba, who in turn have sent thousands of doctors to help my people; but US Americans and Britons (the latter who appear to be rather indifferent to our efforts ... but at least they don't insult)?

  • Are their hearts bleeding for my poor, my indigenous tribes? What, other than insults and snubs, have Venezuelans received from these one-sided agreements?

My anger and indignation will cease when we see a scenario where the UK sends us hundreds of those big beautiful red buses to modernize our public transportation, in exchange for the damn cheap diesel we give them so they can pay less when going to work; when US tribes offer a program to give our indigenous people a place to stay for a vacation, to enjoy a bit of the comforts of life in the first world.

How fair would it be for the Pemon and Yanomami tribes to be able to stay with the American Eskimos getting our oil, learning local customs and a different perspective of the world? For poor Venezuelans to be able to see the bright lights of New York City, staying with their US American counterparts of Harlem and the Bronx or learning English in Boston colleges? Training or resources to our police forces for violence prevention in Caracas, as a nod to the US$100,000 we shelled out to a California-based community organization?

It could all be arranged ... easy visas for our criollos registered in the program, air transportation courtesy of Conviasa, and then it's up to the US Americans to make my people feel as warm and toasty as they will this winter, thanks to Venezuela.

That's solidarity!

As of now, though, Venezuela continues to be a victim of regional chulo (pimps), who receive without giving anything meaningful back. In turn, the "first-world freeloaders" keep on supporting a government that wants to destabilize our country, rejects our help, accuses us of not having any freedom of expression and is pushing to keep our voice out of the UN Security Council.

Unfortunately, neither Chavistas nor oppositionists even debate about these freeloader setups we're in ... if there is no political gain, leaders won't touch it ... and if it's not bothering their spending sprees or their "cambur" (safe jobs in the public administration), neither will the people. This mentality is exactly what is keeping us irrelevant in the economic sense and primitive in the sense of infrastructure and society.

A glimpse of the state of affairs outside Caracas ... exemplified in a special report about Cemento Andino cement plant in Trujillo state, western Venezuela. It's so important to really capture the reality of the country. The largest city in Trujillo, Valera's airport is a true monument to underdevelopment, surrounded by ranchos and grass, it can barely service little 15-person Avior Express jets.

All you can see on the way to the cement factory (about an hour and a half from Valera) is how economically depressed this state is. I'm sorry, comandante, but the revolution is definitely not making a significant impact here. Sure there are Mision Robinson and Mision Barrio Adentro modules around ... and people seem to support Chavez ... but the lack of industrialization and the prevalence of informal economy over real jobs and wealth creation is just another sign that we may not necessarily be on the right path, at least concerning domestic policy.

Trujillo neighborhood

Shack on the side of the road (Trujillo)

Informal Economy (Trujillo)

These people will probably live in poverty and underdevelopment throughout their entire lives ... but they'll be able to read, write and have access to doctors. Ah, the never-ending dilemma between "Human development" a la Cuba versus poverty reduction a la China.

The cement plant continues to be surrounded by poverty, despite the fact that it is the single most important economic engine of the area ... I was in awe. I didn't even realize we had such infrastructure ... it's a business that makes about 300-500 million bolivares (US$140,000 to $232,000) daily, employing about 300 trujillanos, whose community still remains a dump, but they believe in the revolutionary process.

Cemento Andino, Trujillo

No volveran (don't come back!), I say to the opposition...

...but, it's definitely time to take a long, hard look at what the government is doing ... and more importantly, at what el bravo pueblo's mindset is achieving to make our nation a great one.

Considering all of these developments and realities, we ought to consider helping and developing ourselves in the global south (first and foremost) before we even think about investing our measly oil revenues in prosperous and wealthy first world nations.

Alexandra Cortazar

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