Thursday, July 05, 2007

Happy Birthday Venezuela! Wait a minute... happy?

Do we have something to celebrate after Hugo Chavez kidnapped my country from democracy and the rule of law? What are we celebrating? Personality cult towards a lunatic who thinks he is the new Pharaoh who crushes the will of the people at his wish? Bolivar must be upside down in his grave, that or having the laugh of his eternal life.

The big mouth on the back is none other than his... what else would you expect.

by Michael Rowan

Nine independence-days ago, in 1998, Hugo Chavez was campaigning for the presidency. If you were alive then, you will remember that he promised to liberate Venezuela from the corruption and poverty that had plundered the country and ravished its people for several decades, and people believed him. On election-day, Chavez won over half the vote and upon his inauguration a month later 90% of Venezuelans were supporting him and hoping he would succeed at doing what he promised.

Nine independence days later, Chavez has done a lot of things but most Venezuelans still struggle with poverty while corruption has become as common as a rotten mango in the street. In Venezuela today, there is hardly a power that Chavez does not control and there is hardly a bolivar that he does not spend or collect. Compared relatively to the elected leaders of the Americas, he is by a large margin the most powerful. So with all that power and money at his disposal, one would imagine that Chavez would be unhappy about such a sad performance for the people he serves, but he is not unhappy at all, he is delighted with himself.

Chavez has spent or committed $110 billion outside Venezuela since 2004 in various projects that support what he calls 21st century socialism. Compare that to the $120 billion - in today's dollars - that the United States spent in its Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. Whatever the virtues of spreading the revolution internationally might be, how that huge foreign fortune helps Venezuelans - especially those in the economic bottom half - is beyond this mind to imagine.

But what is even more amazing is how little internal party or government criticism there is of the Chavez failure to reduce poverty or corruption or of his spending twice as much in foreign lands as it would cost to lift every Venezuelan family out of poverty in a few years. This is proof of the fear his closest aides feel about telling Chavez the truth. On independence-day, 2007, some brave adviser of Chavez should have him read his 1999 inauguration speech and then ask him, "Are you the same Hugo Chavez who in 1999 wanted to liberate Venezuela from poverty and corruption, and what happened to him?"

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