Guest Column: Freedom doesn’t ring in Chavez’s Venezuela
I am amazed at how shortsighted and biased our ignorance can make us and how many people keep living, working and studying in this country while despising and showing nothing but contempt for its leaders and institutions.
Why, if things are so bad here, don’t they leave? Why don’t they have the decency of being true to their alleged convictions and go work for their "revolution," putting more than words on the line for their leader? Also, I wonder if some people get their facts from the speeches of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who the U.S. government portrays Chavez as an evil dictator. It was Chavez who called our president the devil from the podium of the United Nations.
Some say our nation is filled with deception and greed, yet our democracy is the only just system; I have studied and taught here and I have never come across such teachings. Our nation is recognized as the melting pot of the world. We gather and adapt ideologies from almost every culture to forge a system that we keep perfecting.
That is history and so is the cult of personality and indoctrination tactics used by men like Adolf Hitler who, like Chavez, needed more youngsters in classrooms where his picture hangs and his rhetoric is repeated (see Dave Nalle’s article "Hugo Chavez and the Cult of Personality," BC Politics magazine, Oct. 18).
I’ve heard rhetoric that 60 percent of Venezuela is "owned" by Americans, but foreign investment feeds the global economy. According to the office of the spokesman in Washington D.C., foreign investment in the U.S. reaches about $2.7 trillion (10 percent of all publicly traded firms). It is a shame and not a secret that the corporations’ biggest sin is opportunism, but if they have taken advantage of Latin America, it is thanks to the inefficiency, corruption and greed of Latin America leaders and institutions.
In 2003, state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela stopped publishing its financial statements; in 2005, Transparency International ranked Venezuela 136th for corruption in its public institutions (it was 73rd in 2000); and in the last seven years, the national debt rose from $21 million to $41 million. The Economic Freedom of the World index ranks Venezuela in the 126th position, above only four other countries. Chavez’s government survives thanks to high oil prices, hence the reason for his interest in a conflict between the U.S. and oil-producing states like Iran.
As for justice and freedom, a study conducted by professors Genaro Mosquera, Guillermo Salas, Gustavo Delfino, Antonio Moreno, Antonio Fernandez and Humberto Villalobos from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, Universidad Catolica Andres Bello and Universidad de Carabobo concluded that about 60 percent of the population voted fraudulently in the last referendum. Among the irregularities found were the refusal of the authorities to release the national registry of electors so that it could be independently verified, ballot tables staffed only with members of the government party and 128 municipalities with more voters than the total adult population.
Chavez’s respect for the press and freedom of speech led him to not renew the operating license for Radio Caracas. It was not bad that its rich owners were stripped of their cash cow, or that (in theory) laws were being upheld, but it was bad that those actions were taken only after acts of opposition by the media corporation. Chavez himself justified his decision by simply denouncing the station as "golpista" (subversive).
Investigations are started and laws applied only against Chavez opponents. After his last debacle with the King of Spain, he openly warned all Spanish companies in Venezuela that they will be closely watched.
If Chavez does not place people under arrest, why have the Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa and other international human rights organizations condemned and denounced the murder and prosecution of journalists and threats and aggression against the media?
Chavez and the people of Venezuela have the right to contol their destinies, but respect for other nations’ leaders and institutions is the mark of a true statesman. Drop the aggression, strengthen your societies, and you won’t have to worry about American money flowing into your backyard or about our way of life influencing your people.
Bonilla, a computer engineering technology senior, can be reached via [email protected].