martes, 3 de febrero de 2015

Posting on RSN

I sent a letter to Reader Supported News, an alternative new service I normally agree with. But recently there was a posting,  “A coup in real time” by Eva Golinger. I would like to reproduce an enlarged version of my response to her here.

There has been a continuing leftist loyalty to the Chávez/Maduro governments in certain sectors of the United States and Europe. It is similar to the historically calcified allegiances on the part of the Left to Stalin and other dictatorships of the Twentieth Century that had stopped being socialist and had become “something else”. It is impossible to describe them all with one term. For example, China has become a semi state-monopoly and dictatorship with many capitalist characteristics, and the Venezuelan government has become rather like a Mafia gang as its leaders cling precariously to power with no real ideology whatsoever.

One of the defenses of the Venezuelan revolution is that its leaders were elected. In the last election Opposition leaders claim there was fraud, but the winning margin was very small. It is very hard to clearly substantiate deception. In recent months the government’s popularity has greatly decreased, and officials are reacting with threats and jail for some people. Recently the Defense Minister proclaimed that the army would repress any dissent with live ammunition. Before that, when Hugo Chávez was in power, he was the clear winner of all electoral events, and the Chávez myth still justifies whatever popular support remains for the government.

It is necessary to describe present-day life in Venezuela in order to clarify how the country has left any pretense of socialist policies.

People are being killed here.  In 2013, the government recognized 39 violent deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants, while the Venezuelan Observatory on Violence (Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia) recorded 79/100,000 for the same year. Since then violence has increased, although I have no data to back this up. Most people either personally know, or have had a family member among the victims. This is both tragic and complex because part of the problem is an accelerated increase in ordinary criminality.

One reason for this is that the criminals are neither arrested nor placed under any kind of meaningful restrictions or supervision, partly because the jails are full –stuffed full-, and also because the police are either accomplices or overwhelmed.  The jails are breeding grounds for enhanced criminality, and in these institutions the prisoners have unrestricted access to guns, drugs and even military-grade weapons. These supplies are purchased from corrupt prison officials with the proceeds from crime profits. The “capos” detained there organize kidnappings for ransom or revenge from their cells and manage their extensive illegal businesses on the city streets. The prison administrators have no control over any part of the system. There are other issues, too, such as governmental and police involvement which it would be imprudent for me to discuss here.

Dissidents and many other classes of people in Venezuela end up in jail. Many people are afraid to criticize either officials or their policies. The main opposition leader, Leopold López, has been jailed for a number of months without charges or trial. Students are held because they participated in protests against the government. Some of them say they have been tortured. Just two days ago the managers of a large pharmacy chain were jailed for “irritating the people” because of the long cues of customers waiting to pay for their purchases.

Many basic food articles like milk and soap are impossible to find, and medicines are also difficult to obtain. Those who can, go to Colombia to buy needed medications. The government accuses a non-existent, capitalist plot and CIA conspiracies* for these scarcities. They say this even though the government controls or owns all transport and distribution outlets. The real reasons for all this are, a) the absurd dollar exchange-rate that does not allow companies to buy products outside the country**, and b) the total and willful destruction of any internal production that has happened since 2004.

Hospitals lack medicines, equipment, and even bandages. People die waiting to be cared for. Cancer patients and people on dialysis are among these victims. In addition, criminal gangs break into surgical theaters and threaten the surgeons (or even shoot them) and sometimes they assassinate the patients on the operating table.

I have tried to describe what has been happening here, mostly to inform the remaining international Left that still clings to the illusion of a socialist paradise here.

*I am not naive. I have no doubt that the CIA is active in the country, although this is only an educated guess. I have no knowledge of their activities. However, it would also be naïve to claim that the current unrest in Venezuela is due to their presence.

* As I wrote this, President Maduro liberated the Bolívar/Dollar relation. It will now oscillate around 180 Bolívares for the Dollar. It remains to be seen how this will affect consumers. It will not affect the lack of local production of food and products.

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