The Implosion of Venezuela
Venezuela”s President Hugo Chavez: Photo by Ariana Cubillos: AP
Venezuela doesn’t get hit tsunamis. It gets hit by an earthquake every 75 years or so. The country doesn’t have any suicide bombers. In fact, in a ranking of geopolitical hotspots, Venezuela would likely be near the bottom. And yet, a political scientist would be hard pressed to find a more tragic case of political implosion than the one that has taken place in Venezuela during the last 11 years.
A once-democratic country has been turned systematically into a fascist, military-driven state. This has happened in spite of the resistance of half of Venezuelan society and under the largely indifferent eyes of the regional community. Let me give you a few brief examples of what has happened:
- All democratic institutions existing in 1998 were eliminated in 1999, the first year of Hugo Ch’avez’s presidency and replaced by Ch’avez’s controlled institutions: Congress, Supreme Court, Electoral Council, and Comptroller. Checks and balances ceased to exist. This was possible due to the complicity of some of the key bureaucrats, who thought they could save their jobs by going along with the process.
- Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-owned oil company has been turned into a political tool. Oil income is diverted directly into presidential hands. The company is now deeply politicized, has lost about 800,000 barrels per day of production capacity and is close to organizational collapse.
- The armed forces have been prostituted and converted into a praetorian guard at the service of a personal political project, in open violation of the constitution.
- A national plan made up of structural, long-range programs does not exist, only a policy of direct, short-term handouts made possible by oil income. Although this prodigality is the basis for the popularity of the regime, it amounts to little more than a symptomatic treatment, not a cure. As a result the poor become more dependent on the paternalistic state.
- Education has become indoctrination and history is being re-written. Villains are now heroes and heroes are villains. Sim’on Bol’ivar is no longer an aristocratic Creole, but a socialist mulatto.
- As much as $800 billion has been pilfered, wasted, stolen, given away to ideological friends, used in buying second-rate weapons or in financing presidential campaigns at home and in other countries. Almost $100 billion of new national debt has been incurred.
- An alliance has been established with the political refuse of the planet: Mugabe, Qadaffi, FARC, Hezbollah, Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong Il. Idi Amin and Carlos the Jackal are members of the revolutionary gallery of icons, right up there with Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
Ch’avez has become a threat to the political stability of the hemisphere. The passivity of the Organization of American States on this fact is criminal. And the silence of the OAS has played an important role in the consolidation of the authoritarian regime of Hugo Ch’avez. More than ever this organization has been shown to be ineffective and corrupt. Its Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, has used his position to advance a personal political agenda. His failure at being a candidate for the presidency of Chile has made him redouble his efforts at being re-elected as Secretary General of the organization.
In trying to gain the support of the Latin American Leftist governments he has increased his bias in favor of Cuba and Venezuela. By doing so, he has eliminated all possibilities of the Hugo Ch’avez regime being sanctioned by the organization, in spite of its clear and persistent violations of the InterAmerican Democratic Charter. Instead, Insulza has spent much effort trying to readmit Cuba into the organization, after 50 years of cruel and repressive dictatorship.
I believe the OAS should be shaken to the core and its statutes drastically revised to stop the organization from being an accomplice of authoritarian regimes. If this is not possible, the democratic countries of the hemisphere should abandon their memberships.
Coronel is a Venezuelan expatriate, author and a former member of the board of directors of PDVSA.