En la proximidad de un trascendental Referendum que se celebrará en la República de Venezuela, en el que el pueblo de ese país habrá de votar en favor o en contra de que sea reformada la Constitución actual para que el dictador socialista Hugo Chávez Frías pueda reelegirse constitucionalmente cuantas veces lo desee hasta el día de su muerte –lo cual sería desastroso para Venezuela en particular y para toda América Latina en general–, la valiente oposición venezolana está haciendo circular por correo electrónico algunas publicaciones que se han hecho durante los últimos días en contra de que se establezca legalmente esa dictadura vitalicia. Al pronunciarme solidario con la oposición a la desmedida ambición del dictador Chávez, continuación reproduzco algunas de esas publicaciones:
* Por correo electrónico re recibido este artículo del doctor Fernando Londoño, ex Ministro del Interior de Colombia, el cual se explica por sí mismo:
?Si nunca vuelven las oportunidades perdidas, no tendrá Venezuela lágrimas para verter por las que perdió en estos años en los que Hugo Chávez despilfarró la mayor bonanza petrolera de su historia, y acaso la última para esta generación.
Nunca ha sido tan pobre la nación hermana como ahora, cuando debió ser más rica. Cuando pudo convertirse en una potencia en los biocombustibles, para abrirle alternativas a una riqueza petrolera, inmensa pero que fatalmente se agotará; cuando pudo crear un polo de desarrollo industrial gigantesco, para penetrar en su provecho el cercano mercado de los Estados Unidos; cuando pudo ser el centro del desarrollo energético, tecnológico y ambiental de América Latina; cuando pudo situarse a la cabeza del enriquecimiento humano de este continente, Venezuela ha malgastado cuanto le dio la Providencia en todas las torpezas, los excesos y las corruptelas de este dictador de opereta.
Los viejos dictadores, con todas sus equivocaciones y violencias, eran cuando menos eficaces. Como para aplacar su conciencia y justificar su triste paso por la vida de los pueblos, dejaban puentes y caminos y puertos y canales. Pues ni eso le quedará a Venezuela cuando haga el balance de estos tiempos calamitosos.
Chávez es un personaje extraño. Nació dotado de una mecánica verbal apenas comparable con la de Fidel Castro, con una cierta habilidad para mimetizarse entre el follaje de los resentimientos y los odios colectivos, de modo que parezca, a primera vista, el reparador de antiguas injusticias. Tiene la excelente memoria de los resentidos y el histrionismo de unos
cuantos de los payasos que extrañas circunstancias hicieron poderosos. Talento medianísimo, ilustración inferior, inexistentes los frenos morales, ambición que lo desborda, carece también de cualquier rigor para la autocrítica. En suma, que es un sujeto de alta peligrosidad.
Cualquiera podría suponer lo que ocurriera el día que vinieran a disposición de una persona así cuarenta mil millones de dólares por año. Giovanni Papini dedicó una de sus obras inmortales –El Libro de Gog– a una hipótesis semejante. Pero las extravagancias fabulosas de este rico sin fronteras, terminaban por ser inofensivas. Chávez es como Gog, pero en perverso y en torpe. El otro era ingenioso y en el fondo bonachón.
La peligrosidad de Chávez no es hipotética. Ecuador la está pagando, pues que con el dinero del petróleo venezolano se instauró allá otra dictadura de pésimo pronóstico, la de Correa, cuyos costos a nadie escapan; está acabando con Bolivia, apoyando a Evo Morales, cuyo menor defecto es el de cocalero actuante y confeso; a Nicaragua le instaló por segunda vez un matón corrompido; demoró la transición en Cuba, mediante la transfusión de cinco mil millones de dólares por año, que los venezolanos pagan, adoloridos y pacientes; le ha tendido la mano a los ‘pingüinos’ argentinos, con la friolera de más de diez mil millones de dólares en bonos que el mercado mundial aborrece; y Perú y México tienen la amarga experiencia de haberse sentido al borde de sendos abismos chavistas.
Pero ahora, más desesperado que nunca, vuelve a poner sus ojos en Colombia. Porque su situación interna es catastrófica. Cuando no hay comida en los mercados, cuando ya la oposición se sabe mayoría y el pueblo está dispuesto a batirse por Globovisión, sólo le queda un conflicto internacional. Que no será con los Estados Unidos, pero que sí puede ser con Colombia.
A un sujeto como Chávez no le queda lejos nada. Hitler, al que se parece tanto, invadió Polonia y después se metió en Rusia. Chávez no tiene con qué invadirnos, pero se muere de ganas de ensayar sus aviones rusos y de precipitar la más infame e irracional de las guerras. Este Chávez, no es un valiente. Lo demostró cierto 4 de febrero. Pero sí es un loco, como lo demuestra todos los días. Y un loco megalómano, con plata en la chequera y juguetes letales, demasiado para lo que nos merecemos, nosotros y nuestros queridos hermanos venezolanos.
* El Grupo Ávila, de oposición a Hugo Chávez, ha hecho circular el siguiente artículo:
VIOLENCIA DE ESTADO EN VENEZUELA
En Venezuela, la violencia que ya es crónica, se ha enseñoreado progresiva y peligrosamente de la política. Todo indica que este clima de violencia es consecuencia de la incitación directa adelantada por el Estado en su favor. La naturaleza y carácter de los incidentes ocurridos en las últimas semanas no dejan lugar a dudas sobre el efecto directo que tiene el discurso oficial del presidente Hugo Chávez contra cualquier individuo u organización que se identifique como de oposición a su gobierno. Esta es una realidad alarmante, de alcances tanto más graves por cuanto en el mensaje presidencial se constatan insinuaciones de odio racial, de clase y de cultos.
La profanación el día 31 de enero de la más antigua Sinagoga de Caracas por parte de una banda armada de activistas pro-gubernamentales ilustra cómo este proceso ha traspasado todos los límites tolerables. Un antisemitismo que goza del favor gubernamental y que ha sido un factor de preocupación durante los diez años del régimen presidido por Hugo Chávez, se ha hecho de nuevo presente, ahora con mayor intensidad y, de nuevo, con absoluta impunidad.
Esta grave ofensa contra la Comunidad judía venezolana, repudiada por los venezolanos de todos los credos y convicciones políticas, no puede quedar sin castigo y debe ser enfáticamente rechazada por el gobierno venezolano, como ya lo es por la mayoría del pueblo.
Tal y como lo acordaron los Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno participantes en la Cumbre Mundial de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas celebrada en 2005, todos los Estados están en la obligación de tomar medidas para prevenir y asegurar que nunca jamás vuelvan a ocurrir crímenes contra la Humanidad. De manera particular, están bajo la obligación penal internacional de no incitar a la violencia de índole étnica, religiosa o política y de proteger a sus ciudadanos contra cualquier agresión de tal naturaleza. En las presentes circunstancias, se hace cada vez más evidente que el gobierno de Venezuela, y el presidente Hugo Chávez en particular, no cumplen con estas obligaciones internacionales.
Hacemos un llamado a la comunidad internacional a tomar nota de la gravedad de los actuales acontecimientos en Venezuela y a realizar sus mejores esfuerzos por asegurar que el gobierno venezolano cumpla con sus compromisos y obligaciones internacionales.?
* Para beneficio de quienes leen Inglés, reproduzco también estos artículos publicados en el prestigiado semanario británico The Economist que me han enviado por correo electrónico:
?Violence ? already endemic in Venezuela – has increasingly and dangerously taken hold of Venezuelan politics. All indications point to the fact that this situation has developed under the direct sponsorship of the State. The nature and character of the many incidents that have taken place in the last few weeks leave no doubt as to the direct effect had by the continuous calls to take action against any individual or organization that may stand in opposition to the government made by president Hugo Chavez in his public addresses. This is an alarming reality, made all the more serious by the explicit inclusion of racial, class and religious innuendos in the presidential speeches.
The desecration of the major and oldest Jewish temple in Caracas on January 31, carried out by an armed band of pro-government political activists has taken this process beyond any tolerable limits. Government-induced anti-Semitism, a recurrent issue of concern during the Chavez government?s ten year tenure, has once more made itself present; now with increased intensity and, once more, absolute impunity. The extremely serious offense inflicted on the Venezuelan Jewish community, rejected at large by Venezuelans of all creeds and political beliefs, should not go unpunished and must be forcefully repudiated by the Venezuelan Government.
As agreed on occasion of the 2005 United Nations World Summit, all States are under the obligation to take preventive action to insure crimes against Humanity do not take place ever again. In particular, they are under the international penal obligation to protect all citizens from aggression and not to incite violence of any kind, particularly of an ethnic, religious or political nature. Under the present circumstances, it is becoming increasingly evident that the Venezuelan government and president Hugo Chavez in particular, are both failing to commit to and implement such international obligations.
We call upon the international community to take note of the seriousness of current developments in Venezuela and to make its best efforts to ensure the Venezuelan Government respects its international commitments and is held accountable for how it complies with its international legal obligations.
Caracas, February 4th 2009?
* TEN MOSTLY WASTED YEARS
Feb 5th 2009
Even if he wins his latest referendum Hugo Chavez is diminished. He may soon be desperate.
This ought to be a time of triumph for Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s self-proclaimed “21st-century socialist”. As he marks ten years in power this week, what he calls “savage capitalism” is wounded and seemingly at bay while his would-be nemesis, George Bush, has departed the White House. On February 15th Mr Chavez hopes to win a referendum that would remove all political term limits, a first step to realising his modest ambition to remain in power until at least 2030. In fact, neither Venezuelans nor their leader have much to celebrate.
Mr Chavez’s supporters–and it has to be recognised that these have until recently numbered around 60% of Venezuelan voters–claim that he has transformed his country for the better by empowering the poorer and darker-skinned among its citizens. Social “missions”, some of them staffed by Cubans, are said to have improved the provision of health, education and vocational training, as well as offering cheap food. But it is hard to assess the truth of these claims: strangely, openness and accountability have no place in “21st-century socialism”. Mr Chavez may not–yet–be a dictator, as some of his opponents aver, but he is an autocrat. The “defining features” of his Venezuela, according to a report last year by Human Rights Watch, a pressure group, include “discrimination on political grounds” and his government’s takeover of the judiciary.
Another is its increased dependence on oil. The fall in poverty owes everything to the surge in the oil price since 1999. Mr Chavez has harried private business; millions more Venezuelans depend on the state for jobs and handouts than a decade ago. The motor of economic growth has been public spending. The state oil company, run now as a political project, produces around a quarter less oil than it did a decade ago, while its debt has almost doubled. The fall in the oil price, if sustained, thus threatens the country with savage socialist pain. So far Venezuelans have not felt this, because Mr Chavez has raided the reserves of the Central Bank. But the haste with which he has organised the referendum speaks of desperation.
There were already signs that Venezuelans were starting to tire of their leader. In December 2007 they rejected his first attempt to abolish term limits (and to modify the constitution in a quasi-totalitarian direction). In local elections last November, Mr Chavez’s supporters won a narrow majority but the opposition made important gains.
* THE DANGER THAT CONSENT IS REPLACED BY THUGGERY
This time Mr Chavez has gilded the question by proposing to abolish term limits for mayors and state governors too. He is also making life harder for the opposition. A quasi-fascist undercurrent within his regime is becoming visible: there was even an attack on a Caracas synagogue last month, though officials eventually
Just as the oil price puffed up Mr Chavez over the past few years, now it is diminishing him. His ambition to sponsor a continental movement of radical leftists is being crimped as the money runs short. Even if he wins the referendum, he will face growing discontent at home as the economy moves into recession and inflation rises. His way of governing is plebiscitarian: almost every year in the past decade Venezuelans have been asked to vote in ballots that the president has turned into a
referendum on himself, and whose outcome he has then taken as a blank cheque. Without the oil windfall, a majority of Venezuelans are likely to withdraw their consent. If and when that happens, the risk will be that Mr Chavez resorts to bullying to stay in power. Left-of-centre governments elsewhere in Latin America, which have been overenthusiastic in embracing him, must try to ensure that doesn’t
* Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela
Oblivious to the coming storm
Feb 5th 2009 | CARACAS From The Economist print edition
In his first decade Hugo Chávez has presided over social programmes, inflation, crime and rising intolerance. Venezuelans will pay the price in years to come
SQUEEZED between the millionaires’ row around the Country Club and the leafy gentility of La Florida, a middle-class neighbourhood, Chapellín is a blemish many of its neighbours would like to see bulldozed. Ten years ago, when Hugo Chávez took office as president of Venezuela, the residents of this Caracas slum would crowd around the gates of the nearby headquarters of Radio Nacional each Sunday. They were there to see but, more important, to petition their leader as he arrived for his weekly radio show.
Mr Chávez celebrates a decade in office this month with a referendum aimed at allowing him to prolong his rule for 20 or 30 more years. The streets of Chapellín are a good place to assess the impact of his self-styled Bolivarian socialist revolution.
“With the arrival of the Revolution,” proclaims an information-ministry press release, “the quality of life of most Venezuelans [has] improved.” That is not the view of Enrique González, a car mechanic. Recently the streets have been cleaner and rubbish collection better, he concedes. But crime, the cost of living and the problem of housing have all worsened substantially since Mr Chávez came to power, he says. The fortnightly shopping for his family “used to cost 100 bolívares [and] now costs 300 ($140),” according to Mr González. “I can’t afford to buy what my kids need.” Inflation in 2008 was 31%?the highest in Latin America. Food prices in Caracas rose by almost 50%. The minimum wage is just 800 bolívares a month, although many workers with formal jobs get a bonus of around 250 bolívares for food.
The government’s hostility to private property has triggered a shortage of rented housing. Even in rundown Chapellín, a two-bedroom house can cost around 600 bolívares a month. Last year the government began to repair 150 houses affected by damp. But a day of heavy rain flooded most of them and ruined what had been achieved.
Crime has been the main worry of Venezuelan voters ever since the kidnap and murder of three teenage brothers in 2006 dramatised the problem. With almost 15,000 murders in 2008?an increase of two-and-a-half times since Mr Chávez took office?Venezuela has become one of the world’s most violent countries.
“Just down the street here, a week ago, a man was shot dead by car thieves,” said Jorge Luis Alcalá, a security guard at a baker’s shop in Chapellín. “They didn’t even give him a chance to get out of the car.” The police do not patrol the area. “They only come when there’s a complaint,” according to Mr Alcalá.
The barrio is plagued by drug dealers. Your correspondent was offered cocaine?on the main street, in broad daylight?within ten minutes of arriving. “We can’t say the police aren’t involved,” said Yasmín Graterol, a community activist. “The police are certainly involved.”
Nevertheless, Ms Graterol defends Mr Chávez’s record. She points out that Chapellín now has three soup kitchens to help the poorest, primary health-care posts and a mercalito (a government shop with subsidised food). Not far away is an Integrated Diagnostics Centre (CDI), one of the free second-tier clinics set up by the government to offer more sophisticated medical treatment.
José Silva, a 70-year-old taxi driver, is full of praise for the CDI. He hurt his shoulder not long ago, trying to knock ripe mangoes from a tree. “As a pensioner, I get seen immediately,” he says. “The Cuban doctor soon fixed my shoulder.” Many like Mr Silva are grateful that the president has brought pensions into line with the minimum wage. And although he has to queue for hours at the bank once a month to draw it, he has few complaints.
Mobilising the state
The most reliable opinion polls suggest that Mr Chávez will win the referendum on February 15th, albeit by a small margin. Despite the complaints, just over 50% of respondents in polls approve of him personally. The referendum amounts to a plebiscite on his rule. The tortuous, 75-word question (which does not mention the abolition of presidential term limits) will probably make little difference to the outcome. “People don’t care about the articles [to be modified],” says Ms Graterol. “What they have here”?she touches her head?”and here”?the heart?”is Hugo Chávez. They know their leader’s future is at stake.”
So does Mr Chávez. He has turned almost the whole of the state bureaucracy, including the armed forces and the state oil company, into an election machine. The government-dominated electoral authority has said nothing. Pro-government rallies teem with public-sector workers in red shirts and baseball caps bearing the logos of government departments. “Everyone’s here voluntarily,” insists Clevis Bozo, who works in the internal audit office of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the oil company. “It’s the will of the people.”
The opposition thinks Mr Bozo and his colleagues would be better employed trying to fix the mess in the oil industry. One reason for what OPEC estimates is a drop in oil output of around 1m barrels per day over the past decade is the politicisation of PDVSA. Venezuela’s oil currently fetches below $40 a barrel, down from an average of about $90 last year. Oil accounted for over 90% of Venezuela’s exports last year, up from 64% in 1998.
Even so, Venezuela’s economic prospects “are relatively comfortable in comparison with other countries in the region, and even the United States,” insists Alí Rodríguez, the finance minister. The government claims to have squirrelled away enough to maintain social spending and pay public-sector wages. Since these savings are in unaudited funds, it is hard to judge how long the government can withstand a low oil price without big policy changes. But in a sign that public finances are now under stress, last month it pocketed $12 billion of the Central Bank’s $42 billion of reserves.
Many independent analysts, as well as those linked to the opposition, fear economic doom. Five of the country’s most prominent economists gave warning that the transfer of reserves to the government’s coffers “drastically reduces backing for the bolívar and multiplies the anticipated inflationary impact” of the fall in oil revenues. They predict a squeeze on imports, with a cut of around a third in the foreign currency dispensed by the government’s exchange-control watchdog. They expect stagflation, with the economy contracting by 2-2.5% this year and prices rising by more than 40%. The government will be unable to finance its social programmes and will have to devalue, they say.
On the streets, few Venezuelans seem to be aware of these troubles. But the signs are there. PDVSA is months behind with payments to its suppliers, and some drilling rigs have stopped operating as a result. There are reports that the company is poised to make several thousand of its staff redundant.
In December 2007 Mr Chávez suffered his most serious electoral defeat, when a first attempt to change the constitution to abolish term limits was defeated in a referendum. Since then the government has resorted to large-scale food imports to tackle chronic shortages, which the opposition blames on price controls.
This time the opposition campaign has been weak. It seems exhausted after state and municipal elections last November in which it made important gains. Some opposition supporters assume apathetically that the result will be rigged. “Stand for four or five hours in a queue, so the country can stay the same?” says Mr González, the mechanic. “I don’t think so.”
Harassing the opposition
Mr Chávez has often said that “the revolution is peaceful, but armed.” Violence and intimidation of opponents by the security forces and by armed civilian groups (some openly linked to the government) have increased. Students campaigning against the constitutional change have faced harassment and arrest.
Opposition politicians elected as mayors and state governors last November have found it hard to exercise power. In Caracas the new mayor, Antonio Ledezma, has suffered an occupation of the city hall and other buildings by armed chavistas. The government has refused to intervene, saying that the occupations are a response to Mr Ledezma’s refusal to renew the contracts of thousands of workers hired by his chavista predecessor. Elsewhere, incoming opposition administrations have also found equipment and offices purloined.
The most disturbing incident was the sacking of Caracas’s main synagogue on January 30th by more than a dozen armed men. They vandalised religious objects, painted anti-Jewish and pro-Palestinian slogans on walls, and stole computer hard drives containing a database of the Jewish community. Officials condemned the attack and blamed the opposition. But it says that the government has been fostering a climate of hostility against Jews. Mr Chávez cut diplomatic ties with Israel in response to its attack on Gaza last month.
Days earlier a group of armed chavista radicals had attacked the Ateneo de Caracas, one of the capital’s most important cultural centres. Complaining that it was being used for “ultra-rightist” activities, they hurled tear-gas grenades and fired shots. They held scores of people at gunpoint for hours, stole their mobile phones and vandalised the premises. The assault was lead by Lina Ron, a prominent member of Mr Chávez’s referendum campaign. None of the assailants has been arrested or questioned. As if to dispel any doubt that the invasion of the Ateneo had the government’s support, the next day the finance ministry ordered the eviction of the cultural centre from the state-owned buildings it has occupied since the 1980s.
Ironically, the Ateneo provided Mr Chávez with a platform when he entered politics after leading an unsuccessful military coup against a democratic government in the 1990s. The incident highlights his regime’s increasingly authoritarian bent. “The first thing totalitarian regimes do is to attack institutions where different schools of thought and ideologies come together,” said Carmen Ramia, the Ateneo’s director. Hitherto, to describe Mr Chávez as “totalitarian” has been inaccurate. Will that remain the case?”