One guy that didn’t seem happy about the death of Gaddafi (or is it Gadhafi?) last week was Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, who called him a “martyr”. Is Chavez just being a chav? Or is his defiant behaviour aimed at ensuring the success of his revolution and bringing freedom and justice to his people?
Actually the fascis–I mean fascinating Mr. Chavez may be just a couple of years from death himself. Reportedly one of his former doctors, Salvador Navarrete, has said the president has an aggressive cancer in his pelvic region. Predictably, that doctor has now been forced to leave Venezuela.
Ever the showman, Mr. Chavez did not let it stop him from shaking his pelvis in public to celebrate his 57th birthday. Chavez has often sung and danced on his own six-hour weekly television show to entertain the masses. However, when it comes to opposition TV, there’s not so much freedom–despite the fact that Chavez was once awarded the Al-Qadhafi International Prize for Human Rights (maybe THAT’S the right spelling, even if no one else used it).
There is only one remaining opposition TV station in Venezuela. Last week that station was fined the equivalent of over $2 million for allegedly breaking broadcasting rules. Also last week, an opposition candidate for the 2012 presidential election, Leopoldo Lopez, was barred from holding office till 2014. Well, at least he hasn’t yet been forced into exile like that doctor; or Chavez’s main opponent in the last election, Manuel Rosales, who fled in 2009.
The regional Inter-American Court of Human Rights had ordered Venezuela to stop violating Mr. Lopez’s rights and let him run for office. However, the Venezuelan Supreme Court found a brilliant solution: it allowed him to run, but upheld the bar on him HOLDING office; which means even if Lopez were to win the presidential election he could not be president. For good measure, the Venezuelan court did its best impression of a mouthpiece by accusing the human rights court of acting “as if it were a colonial power”.
So Chavez continues his crusade to shut everyone’s mouth but his own (which as we’ve seen may be open for up to six hours at a stretch). Yet has he justified his talk with action? Has he improved his countrymen’s lives?
The Venezuelan government ensures that everyone receives basic food items. Literacy is high. Access to health services has increased, though the system is inefficient. Also, prices have risen while production has fallen. Poverty and unemployment are widespread. The crime rate is now among the world’s highest. The government hopes to solve most problems through further nationalization. It is also increasing its debt as fast as possible, planning to spend huge amounts in preparation for next year’s election.
Such borrowing would be impossible if Venezuela didn’t have lots and lots of oil: so much, in fact, that petrol is sold more cheaply than water to its own citizens. But if those beastly imperialists abroad were to start paying lower prices too, then the economy would be in serious trouble.
[In Hindsight 79/Oct 24-26, 2011]