Watch Out President Chávez : You’re Opening Pandora’s Box!

Former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, who died on Saturday, December 25 in Miami, is said, by President Hugo Chávez, to have led governments from 1974-79 and 1989-93 that violated citizens’ rights and were subservient to US interest. This is what we can politely term ‘the pot calling the kettle black!’ Speaking from the grave through his daughter, Maria Francia Perez, who confirmed that, despite rumors, her father would never have agreed to be buried in Venezuela while the ‘antidemocratic’ government of President Chavez remains in power; the two arch enemies continuing the fight even from different worlds!

After ten years as president, Hugo Chávez has polarized Venezuela even further, and arguably has the “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” magnetism of Evita Peron, charming the poor with projects like Take El Valle, a hillside slum on the edge of Caracas. Over the past few years it has seen social programs: Cuban medics manning a health clinic, soup kitchens and supermarkets with subsidized rice prices. According to government figures, extreme poverty dropped from 16.9% to 7.9% between 2000 and 2007. These figures are not only challenged by the opposition, but also by failure to address day to day issues like frequent muggings and the soaring price of milk.

Maybe it is the bubbling social consciousness that is being created that is the most important legacy so far, and the gradual awakening of the poor to their rights. Pandora’s box, now opened, and there will be no going back, but for the same poor to then exert their rights. This 21st century socialism, however, like revolutionary Cuba before it is showing similar reactions to overt opponents like those on the Tascón list. They are reported to be excluded from the government’s benefits and even blacklisted. The national identity numbers of more than 2.4 million Venezuelans who had signed a petition for a recall referendum against President Chávez was published, though later recalled, and the continuing persecution of this politically segregated people is suspected. Democracy? Social Reform? Students protested Cuba forty years ago. Looks like Venezuela is the new Cuba right enough.

Meanwhile President Chávez remains the US’s most uncensored critic. What is the US’s reasoning? What does oil have to do with it? (A rhetorical question)

By Pam Mason


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