Sunday, December 27, 2009

If only bombast could be converted to something useful. 

At the environmental summit in Copenhagen Amy Goodman of Democracy Now did a very brief interview of President Chavez. A transcript can be found here while the video is here.

In the interview Chavez doesn't actually say anything that is worth while. Still, there is something to be observed and commented upon so lets have a look at part of it:

Amy Goodman: You sell more oil to the United States than any country but Canada. Your economy depends on oil, yet you are here at a climate change summit. What’s your proposal?

President Hugo Chavez: [translated] The problem is not the oil, but what they do with the oil. The United States is the biggest spender of oil and of all the planet resources. Oil is a very valuable resource for life—electric heaters. We must transition ourselves to a post-oil era. And that’s what we must discuss, searching and developing new sources of energy. And that requires scientific research. That requires investment. And the developed countries must be the ones to assume this responsibility first.

Well, certainly global warming is not the fault of Venezuela (and surprisingly Chavez didn't take credit for helping inflate the price of oil and thereby reduce its consumption) but his statement calls for a very strong warning of be careful what you wish for. After all, Chavez has done essentially nothing to make Venezuela's economy less dependent on oil revenues so if oil were to be rendered obsolete it wouldn't be a pretty picture in his country.

Amy Goodman: What level of emissions are you willing to support reductions of emissions?

President Hugo Chavez: [translated] One hundred percent. One hundred percent. We must reduce the emissions 100 percent. In Venezuela, the emissions are currently insignificant compared to the emissions of the developed countries. We are in agreement. We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet. However, that requires a change in lifestyle, a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism. That’s the real solution.

Ok, so much of the world very seriously debates how much they are willing to cut back on emissions (predictably the U.S. and China suck on this) and Chavez comes out with the flippant and asinine remark of a 100% cutback.

Sure, that is a really meaningful goal at the moment!! Are Venezuelan scientists about to announce a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion rendering oil, coal, and natural gas obsolete? Somehow I don't think so. And this coming from a country whose emissions are going up, that recently broke records for automobile sales, that gives away gasoline practically for free, and that according to some sources has the highest per capita emissions in Latin America.

Quite frankly, these comments are simply insulting to the person who asked the question and to anyone who might be listening to his answer - but more on this in a moment.

Amy Goodman: How do you throw away capitalism?

President Hugo Chavez: [translated] The way they did it in Cuba. That’s the way. The same way we are doing in Venezuela: giving the power to the people and taking it away from the economic elites. You can only do that through a revolution.

So he really wants to emulate Cuba's "jinatera socialism"? If so, then I am not so sure most Venezuelans agree with his choice of roll models.

Moreover, he never does explain why socialism would somehow automatically lead to less emissions than capitalism - unless of course he means complete economic stagnation for decades on end as we have seen in Cuba.

Then he went on to say some at least half way coherent things - only because he said Obama sucks, and as it turns out, Obama really does suck.

After reading this silliness uttered by Chavez you are probably wondering how this merits commenting on. And the truth is that in and of itself it doesn't.

However, this is completely representative of Chavez's outlandish, and ultimately hollow and meaningless, rhetoric that one of these days some of his adulators should call him on.

He was asked a serious question - how much should emissions be reduced? And he gave a stupid and meaningless answer that simply wastes everyones time.

Just as when asked about how the economic crisis would effect Venezuela he said it wouldn't - that Venezuela was "blindado". Or just as any of his fanciful statements about pipelines and railroads crisscrossing South America. Or his empty rhetoric about constructing "socialism" in Venezuela.

Having pointed out these tendencies a number of times before I've often been told "but he is speaking figuratively".

Ok, sure, everyone speaks figuratively, occasionally.

But that isn't the problem with Chavez - the problem with Chavez is that these literally absurd statements are pretty much the norm in his speaking.

And to make a bizarre tendency even worse this has serious repercussions for Venezuela.

Chavez and his advisers constantly lie to Venezuelans about the state of the country's economy which means that festering problems are ignored and when bad events come along Venezuelans don't understand why those things are happening.

Chavez and his advisers consistently refuse to educate people about important matters - such as, for example, the effects of giving away billions of dollars of gasoline for free. Remember when a year and a half ago we were told that gasoline prices couldn't be increased because the population had to be educated on the issue first? Ok, anyone seen a significant education campaign on that topic? I didn't think so.

Chavez berates Venezuelans for the consumerist tendencies but then carries out economic policies that favor those tendencies and even berates banks for not expanding consumer credit for people to purchase cars.

Sadly, this at best wasteful and at worst self destructive discourse continues.

Yet no one in his ranks calls him on it. I guess that is what happens when you are left with nothing but sycophants and people who don't want to jeopardize their paychecks.

So instead of getting the useful and practical speech of a leader that would help a poor country solve some of the many problems it suffers from we get unending bombast.


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