Monday, March 29, 2004

A letter to the Editor 

In todays Wall Street Journal there appeared the following letter to the editor (letter in italics my response in bold):

I would like to thank Mary Anastasia O'grady for her insighteful and well informed columns, especially "Chavez's Nasty Battle Against the Popular Will" (Americas, March 19).

Normally I would stop reading right there. Anyone who praises O'Grady for writing insightfull and well informed columns definitely has some screws missing. But being a masochist I continued ..

Our nightmare includes the massive firings from public office and nonrenewal of passports for anyone who signed the democratic petition for a constitutional recall vote, the grotesque kiddnapping of all the branches of government, the imprisonment, torturing, killing and raping of normal individuals who rightfully protest...

Ok here start the scurilous allegations. These rumors of people getting fired from their jobs or not being able to renew their passports for signing petitions against Chavez have been making the rounds on the Internet and in the Venezuelan press. They are completely false. There have no confirmed cases of anyone being fired for political reasons. First, in Venezuela if a person works in the formal sector (ie they are not a street vendor or don't work off the books) it is virtually impossible to fire them - Venezuelan labor laws are very strict. Secondly, no where in the Venezuelan media have they shown any of the alledged letters terminating people from there jobs. So where is the evidence? Thirdly, no one has even made a formal compaint to the Venezuelan authorities, or any international labor groups for that matter, about these alleged firings. Fourth, I do have some relatives who are anti-Chavez and are government employees, who have signed petitions against him, and even they acknowledge that they have never been threatened with losing their jobs nor do the know of anyone who has. Regarding the passports being denied - that was a rumour that was on some anti-Chavez websites for about half a day before even they realized it was hogwash.

As regards torture, rape, murder, etc., there is abundant evidence that the Venezuelan National Guard did use excessive force in putting down some of the violent street demostrations that erupted last month. So yes there are people who were clubbed, shocked with cattle prods, and shot with buckshot and rubber bullets when they shouldn't have been. In all countries when there are violent demonstrations there tends to be an overreaction by the authorities and Venezuela is no exception to this. At the same time when you go around throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at the police getting clubbed in the head is an occupational hazard. As to rape and murder - the author seems to have had a bit to much to drink. There is no evidence that anyone was raped or murdered in relation to recent political events in Venezuela.

against a government that, thought democratically elected, long ago departed from our constitutional paths and imposed on us its truly dictatorial and communist ways

Well, at least this person got something right. Chavez was indeed democratically elected. Twice. By huge margins. In 1998 he was elected with the highest percentage of the vote of any politician since Venezuela became a democracy. Then in 2000 he ran for office again and was elected by an even larger margen! Further Chavez's initiatives such as changing the Consitution have always been submitted to votes and overwhelmingly approved by the Venezuelan electorate. There is almost certainly no leader in the world who can claim to have a greate mandate than does Chavez.

The accusations of Chavez being dictatorial are laughable on their face. And of being a communist? Well to date Chavez has not nationalized any industries or businesses. The Venezuelan stock market is doing exceedinly well. There are several Venezuelan businessmen who are jet setting billionaires. Venezuelans are completely free to say what they want, do what they want, go where they want, spend their money as they please, or any thing else for that matter. And for God's sake, there have to be more McDonalds fast food outlets in Caracas than anywhere in the world. Some communist.

It is hard to believe even for those of us who are trapped in it everyday, but the nightmare is inexorably plunging us into civil war.

Life is tough when you are part of a small wealthy elite that has traditionally had the country's resources pretty much to yourself and then finds the apple cart being upset by someone who appeals to the those lower class scum who populate shantytowns. Not only is their grip being pried off of control over the country's resources but even their servants are starting to get upity (one time when I was in Los Roques, a Venezuelan beach resort, I was speaking to a wealthy person from Caracas who complained that their servants haven't been as obediant ever since Chavez came to power).

Not only your leaders, but the American people, our traditional friends and allies, should be aware of the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of the "Bolivarian Revolution". This "revolution" is nothing less than an effort of continental proportions to implant a neo-communist regime in the region (destroying everything we believe in and have fought so hard for). And the effort is aided by international terrorist groups and foreign nations and is funded by Venezuela's significant oil revenues. These oil revenues are funding a multimillion-dollar propaganda campaign aimed at confusing the issues and buying "the revolution" the time to stand solidly in the region.

Calling the American people his traditional friends and allies - hmm... I wonder where he is going with that. And regarding this non-sense about Venezuela being involved with terrorist groups - it is a strategy of throw lots of sh*t at the wall and see how much sticks. They have being trying to link Chavez to Osama Bin Laden for years now and have yet to produce a scrap of evidence. Luckily for some of these people libel laws don't exist in Venezuela.

John Kerry's "Statement on Venezuela" published March 19 on his Website, shows a definite, very much appreciated and welcomed preoccupation for our country's democracy. With all respect, I would say to Mr. Kerry that Venezuela's democracy is already an illusion and that the "effort to preserve" it is late in coming. As things stand, the effort should rather be made to repair it. With all that implies and for all our sakes.

Domingo Guzman de Frutos Arismendi
Caracas, Venezuela

John Kerry sure did issue a statement on Venezuela. And it was indeed critical of Chavez although it was replete with factual errors. But getting his facts right probably wasn't what was foremost in Kerry's mind. Winning over the right wing Cuban exile community in the key state of Florida was. In a close election Florida may again be the difference and getting some Cuban exiles on his side would certainly help his prospects in Florida. So if he has to toss them a bone, he has to toss them a bone.

Now I think I finally see where this person was going with all of that "American friends" stuff. They want their democracy "repaired ... with all that implies". What DOES that imply? That because they cannot unseat a highly popular, democratically elected leader they want the U.S. to send in the 82nd Airborne? That they want want the blood of 18 and 19 year old American soldiers to be shed so that they can regain their formerly privaleged position? It that is what is implied all I can say is no thanks.


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